HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) — A state House committee voted on party lines Tuesday to keep portions of the governor’s coronavirus disaster emergency in place until October but end fast-track contracting rules and other provisions.
The resolution, which requires approval from both legislative chambers but not from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, is designed to stop the use of no-bid contracts, require people on unemployment aid to look for work and end social distancing mitigation rules.READ MORE: Gov. Tom Wolf Signs Another Renewal Of COVID-19 Disaster Declaration
The State Government Committee vote came just one day after the proposal was introduced by the Republican House floor leader, Rep. Kerry Benninghoff of Centre County, and exactly a week after state voters passed a pair of constitutional amendments to give lawmakers greater authority over disaster declarations.
“We had an election — the people’s voices were loud and clear,” said the committee’s chairperson, Rep. Seth Grove, R-York.
Republican Rep. Russ Diamond, who has opposed mask wearing and other virus mitigation efforts, said he hoped to make changes to the legislation before a final vote. Diamond said voters in his Lebanon County district did not want any provisions to remain in place for months to come.
“They didn’t vote to end this on Oct. 1. They didn’t vote to end this tomorrow. They voted to end this on May 18 and they were anxious to show up and end this once and for all,” Diamond said.READ MORE: Pennsylvania Voters Impose Limits On Governor's Emergency Disaster Powers
All Democrats on the committee voted no.
Wolf’s mitigation orders are currently being phased out, and on Monday the governor’s acting labor secretary outlined a schedule for resumption of job search requirements.
In a statement released by Wolf on Tuesday, he said that measures designed to limit the spread of the virus are unaffected by the constitutional amendments. His office has repeatedly said they are authorized under powers given to the health secretary.
“The constitutional amendment granted them authority to terminate or extend in whole or in part the disaster declaration, and the specific orders are separate and apart from the proclamation,” Wolf said, calling the resolution that the State Government approved Tuesday a discouraging development.
He also said that with the vote yet to be certified, the constitution hasn’t been amended.MORE NEWS: 1st Ballot Test Of Governor’s Pandemic Powers Starts In Pennsylvania
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