In This Update:
Supreme Court Strikes Down HR 836; Wolf Announces New Mask Order
As many of you are aware, Governor Wolf announced on Wednesday a new order regarding the wearing of masks in public, issued by Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine. My office has already gotten several calls on this new order – from those expressing frustration and from those with questions. I appreciate hearing your opinions, and I am directing people who have questions to contact the Office of the Secretary of Health at 717-787-9857.
Unfortunately, also on Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled to strike down House Resolution 836, which called for termination of the Governor’s COVID-19 executive order. The majority opinion in the case wrote, (the resolution) “required presentment, a key component of our Constitution’s balance of powers among the several branches of government, a balance that prevents one branch from dominating the others.” That is quite a statement in a case that is predominantly based on the argument that the governor has unilaterally been making decisions throughout this pandemic with no respect for that balance of power.
Grants Available to Support Small Businesses
Small businesses in Pennsylvania that were affected by COVID-19 can apply now for state grants to offset financial losses caused by the statewide business shutdown order. The COVID-19 Relief Statewide Small Business Assistance program will provide grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to affected businesses that have 25 or fewer employees and meet other eligibility criteria.
The grant application period opened June 30 and will remain open for approximately 10 days. Eligibility criteria, application details and other information on the program are available at pabusinessgrants.com.
Senate Approves Second Round of Policing Reforms
After passing bills a pair of police reform bills last week, the Senate passed three more bills this week to strengthen police training and hiring practices and protect individuals in police custody.
The bills would promote the use of in-service training, including annual instruction on the use of force, de-escalation, and harm reduction techniques; require law enforcement agencies to conduct a thorough background investigation of police officer job candidates; and improve the safety of individuals in police custody, as well as Department of Corrections staff.
Last week, the Senate voted to ban the use of chokeholds except in situations where the use of deadly force is authorized, and require municipal law enforcement departments to adopt a use of force policy and train officers on procedures allowed.
Senate Advances Bills to Support Pennsylvania Firefighters
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed additional stress on many fire companies and emergency responders. The Senate took action on several bills recently to support Pennsylvania fire companies and strengthen protections for firefighters, now and in the future.
The Senate approved Senate Bill 987, which would elevate the Office of the State Fire Commissioner to a cabinet-level agency and create a new advisory board to make recommendations on issues that directly affect fire companies.
The Senate also positioned Senate Bill 932 for a final vote in the near future. The bill would eliminate current limitations on the use of state aid by volunteer firefighter relief associations (VFRA). The bill was also amended to allow densely populated municipalities the option to prohibit the use of consumer fireworks.
In addition, the Senate Finance Committee approved Senate Bill 875, which would provide a sales tax exemption for firefighters purchasing protective equipment and accessory communications equipment using their own personal funds.
Lawmakers Approve New Protections for Daycare Facilities
A bill to better protect children in state-regulated daycare facilities received final legislative approval this week and was sent to the governor to be signed into law. If signed by the governor, the new law will require family daycare homes to have a smoke detector on each floor and in the basement, as well as a portable fire extinguisher, and to meet occupancy and licensing requirements.
The bill was introduced in response to a tragic fire that claimed the lives of five young children in Erie last year.
Committee Discussion Focuses on Economic Impact of Southcentral PA Business Shutdowns
The Senate Majority Policy Committee continued its series of workshop discussions this week regarding Governor Wolf’s business shutdown orders by examining the economic impact of the crisis in southcentral Pennsylvania. The two-hour discussion included testimony from more than a dozen business owners and economic development experts, including Steve Kindler, Jr. with National Fitness Partners in Mechanicsburg and Rick Jordan, III with Smith Land & Improvement Co. in Camp Hill.
Bill Moves Forward to Provide Pricing Transparency for Prescription Drugs
Prescription drug costs are a serious concern for many Pennsylvanians. The Senate approved a bill this week that would provide pricing transparency in prescription drug costs and help protect small pharmacies.
The Consumer Prescription Drug Pricing and Freedom Disclosure Act would allow a pharmacy or pharmacist to provide information about the cost of a prescription drug to consumers, including the individual’s share of costs. The bill would also prohibit a pharmacy benefits manager from penalizing a pharmacy or pharmacist for disclosing this information to the individual or selling a more affordable alternative.