Republican leaders, small business advocate condemn governor’s veto of bills reopening businesses

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Senate Republican leaders expressed frustration Tuesday with Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of three pieces of legislation that would have given county governments more control in allowing employees to safely return to work and employers to resume operations under state and federal safety guidelines.

The bills, which had been previously approved by the General Assembly and formally sent to Wolf Monday, would have brought back more than 200,000 jobs across the Commonwealth, according to a Senate statement.

House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said that the governor is unfairly exercising sole power over the future of Pennsylvania.

“These bills were passed with bipartisan support in the House and Senate and with overwhelming positive response from Pennsylvanians in all corners of the Commonwealth,” Cutler said. “As the elected body closest to the people, it is our duty to represent their positions, and in this case, grievances with the current situation.”

Senate Bill 327 would have given county governments the option to develop individual plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and allow residents to return to work safely. House Bill 2388 would have required the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to issue waivers to the business closure order to vehicle dealers, lawn and garden centers, cosmetology salons, barber shops, messenger and agent services, animal grooming services, and manufacturing operations. House Bill 2412 would have directed the DCED to issue waivers to legal services and real estate sales activities.

“The Governor continues to focus efforts on what we cannot and should not do instead of what we can do to get our economy moving again,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34). “It’s unfortunate that he does not trust that employers can follow safety guidelines that will protect their workers and the public, who want these businesses open again.”

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which advocates for 13,000 small businesses in Pennsylvania, also had supported all three bills.

“This is not a one man show and many duly elected lawmakers should have a say in the handling of this lock down of the people and small businesses they represent,” said NFIB Pennsylvania State Director Gordon Denlinger.

“We have heard daily from numbers of small business owners who are not going to make it if there isn’t more flexibility granted soon—and other logical, safe and reasonable plans have been proposed to keep the vulnerable safe, while still offering relief to shuttered dying businesses or highly limited operations,” added Denlinger.