Pa. lawmakers take last steps to end declaration, extend waivers

Pennsylvania
The American flag flies at the Pennsylvania State Capitol building Wednesday Oct. 24, 2018, in Harrisburg, Pa.

Pennsylvania Statehouse (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature on Thursday voted to end Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic disaster emergency declaration and to extend hundreds of regulatory waivers his administration approved over the last 15 months.

A bill to extend the regulatory waivers across a wide swath of government functions and the economy would keep the regulations suspended until Sept. 30, unless Wolf’s administration ends the waivers sooner.

It passed the House and Senate unanimously, but still required approval from Wolf, a Democrat.

A key component of a disaster declaration is a governor’s authority to waive a regulation.

However, the resolution to end Wolf’s disaster emergency declaration drew bitter recriminations from Democrats, who accused Republicans of undertaking an experiment that could hamstring a state response to a resurgence of COVID-19 and risks losing millions in federal emergency food aid for the poorest families.

The resolution passed the chambers with every Republican in favor of it and all but nine Democrats against it. It does not require a governor’s approval.

The Wolf administration maintains that dissolving the disaster emergency does not affect a health secretary’s disease-prevention authority to issue mask-wearing and stay-at-home orders or shut down schools and non-essential businesses.

Republicans and Democrats also quarreled over the legality of the resolution, since the state has not yet certified the results of last month’s referendum that gave lawmakers broad new authority over extending and ending disaster emergencies.

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