May. 01, 2020 / Weekly Roundup

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#Listrak\DateStamplong# The latest news from the State Capitol
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House Actions Help Guide State Toward Safe Reopening

With Pennsylvania employers, workers and families continuing to struggle in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the House was back in session this week to promote legislation that would protect our constituencies while safely opening businesses in accordance with the CDC guidelines.

While we were debating legislation in the House to reopen the real estate business safely, the governor’s office issued new guidance to allow certain transactions to proceed. Read the updated guidance here. 

We can all agree that a piecemeal approach is not ideal, but it is helping to move the Commonwealth forward by bringing the governor’s attention to businesses that are clearly capable of operating in a manner that abides by guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The key to any good legislation is to keep both workers and customers safe.

Legislation passed by the House this week: 
  •   To help our communities and first responders, House Bill 2413 would invest up to $40 million in grants for fire and emergency medical services companies.
  •   To help save taxpayer dollars, House Bill 2418 would require a comprehensive review of all Commonwealth debt to identify opportunities to take advantage of refinancing at lower interest rates. House Bill 2392 would require the Independent Fiscal Office to include critical risk factors in its assessment of the Commonwealth’s fiscal condition to help lawmakers better plan and budget within our means.
  •   To address regulations, House Bill 2415 would require the Office of the Governor to notify legislative leaders in writing by electronic means when a specific statute or regulation is suspended, modified or waived under the authority of the emergency order.
  •   To ensure intergovernmental cooperation throughout the disaster and recovery period, House Bill 2419 would establish the COVID-19 inter-branch Cost and Recovery Task Force.

 
 
 
Construction Industry Back to Work May 1

Six weeks after being ordered to shut down by the Wolf administration due to coronavirus concerns, all business in the Commonwealth’s construction industry is permitted to resume in-person operations Friday, May 1.

All businesses and employees in the construction industry must adhere to the Secretary of Health’s order providing for business safety measures, which requires that every person present at a work site wear masks/face coverings unless they are unable for medical or safety reasons, and requires that businesses establish protocols upon discovery that the business has been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19. All construction projects also must maintain proper social distancing and provide handwashing and sanitizing stations for workers, as well as cleaning and sanitizing protocols for high-risk transmission areas.

Read more about the guidelines for construction to resume here. 
 
 
 
Outdoor Recreation to Reopen May 1

The governor also announced the reopening of golf courses, marinas, guided fishing trips and privately-owned campgrounds this Friday. Campgrounds in state parks will remain closed through Thursday, May 14. People who choose to participate in these activities will have to follow various guidelines to protect against the spread of COVID-19. Read more here. 
   
 
Penn State Extension Offers Coronavirus Resources

As the world continues to adapt to a new reality created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Penn State Extension is offering a variety of resources to help farms and other agricultural businesses, families, and communities navigate their way through the related disruptions.

Although extension offices in each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties are closed until further notice, faculty extension specialists and county-based extension educators are working remotely to support the state's essential, life-sustaining farms and food operations and to provide science-based information to help residents stay safe, eat well, maintain households and manage stress.

The hub for this pandemic-related information is Penn State Extension's COVID-19 information webpage. There, visitors can access articles, webinars, online courses and other educational materials by topic, find upcoming events, and get answers to frequently asked questions.

The webpage features the following categories of information:

— Prevention. Tips and best practices for handwashing, social distancing and other methods to stay healthy.  

— Personal and family resources. Featuring advice on cooking from your pantry, budgeting, activities to do with your children, https://extension.psu.edu/helping-kids-through-the-disruption protecting yourself from scams, keeping mentally fit and other useful information.

— Food safety and food business resources. Guidelines to reduce the risk of exposure for business owners, employees and their families, and customers throughout the food system.

— Agricultural industry resources. Information for agricultural operations, including topics such as pesticide applicator recertification during the pandemic, farm contingency and disaster planning, and other subjects.

— Business resources. Help with business growth and development, marketing and market development, food systems, local foods, financial management, and information on federal pandemic relief programs for businesses.

— Community, nonprofit and local government resources. Information and step-by-step guidance on public engagement, collaboration and deliberative dialogue to help local organizations continue to serve their communities during the crisis.

In addition to online resources, extension educators can be reached by email or phone to address specific questions and issues. Directories containing contact information and staff subject-matter specialties can be found on each county extension office webpage on the Penn State Extension website.
 
PennDOT Offering Limited CDL Services

With the construction industry back to work as of Friday, May 1, PennDOT is reopening a limited number of driver license centers to provide Commercial Driver Licensing (CDL) services by appointment only. Available services for commercial drivers at these locations will include CDL knowledge and skills testing, hazmat renewals and security threat assessments.

These locations will reopen for CDL services ONLY:
  •   Lehigh Valley: 1710 Hoover Ave., Allentown.
  •   Somerset: 5593 Glades Pike, Somerset.
  •   Lewistown: 13217 Ferguson Valley Road, Yeagertown.
  •   Selinsgrove: 1015 U.S. 522, Selinsgrove.

Please note that Lehigh Valley only tests Class B and C. All other sites listed test Class A, B and C. Appointments will be scheduled based on demand and schedule availability. Individuals -seeking CDL testing may call PennDOT’s Call Center at 717-412-5300 or email cdlappointmentrequest@pa.gov to request an appointment.

PennDOT also announced this week that expiration dates for driver licenses, identification cards, and learner's permits, will be extended for Pennsylvania residents in response to statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Effective April 30, 2020, expiration dates for driver licenses, photo ID cards and learner's permits scheduled to expire from March 16, 2020 through May 31, 2020, are now extended through June 30, 2020.

These extensions are in addition to those announced on March 27.
 
 
 
DOH Allows “Elective” Procedures to Resume

The Department of Health announced new guidance that will allow hospitals and surgical centers to resume non-emergent surgeries and procedures, as long as the facilities remain prepared should they need to respond to COVID-19 cases. Elective procedures had been put on hold to help reserve resources and space due to the pandemic. Click here for more information. 
 
      
 
 
Protecting Supply Chain Workers

Just over a week after House Republicans asked the Wolf administration to address a number of food supply chain concerns, the state Department of Agriculture announced last weekend it would provide priority testing for workers supporting that supply chain in areas of eastern Pennsylvania with higher rates of confirmed COVID-19.

Testing will be available at the Montgomery County mass testing site or the federally funded testing site at Mohegan Sun in Luzerne County. This is an important step toward preventing food waste and ensuring food remains available in our grocery stores, though more needs to be done. Read more about the administration’s announcement here.  
 
 
Luzerne County Resumes Gun Permit Applications with New Format

NOTE: This story originally appeared in the Times-Leader.  

The Luzerne County Sheriff’s Department will resume acceptance of gun permit applications May 11, but with a different format due to the coronavirus, the county announced Thursday.

The county had suspended applications for licenses to carry firearms on March 17, largely due to concerns about too many people waiting in lines.

Under the new plan, permit seekers must place all required application paperwork in a sealed envelope and deposit it in a box set up at the county courthouse on River Street between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays.

Applicants will be contacted within 45 calendar days with a date and time to appear in person for their photograph and electronic signature to be recorded.

The advance drop-off and requirement for appointments to complete the process will eliminate crowds not permitted during the pandemic, county Sheriff Brian Szumski said Thursday.

“We’re trying to open up the process, but we can’t have a mad rush,” Szumski said.

His office processes approximately 7,000 to 7,500 license requests for county residents annually, he said. Each license is good for five years.

Online links to all applications have been posted on the sheriff’s section at www.luzernecounty.org.
 
 
Game Commission Launches New Remote Learning Tool

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is inviting educators and parents in search of remote learning resources to check out the new Wildlife on WiFi site, a hub of conservation and wildlife-themed educational resources, activities and content to support educators, students and parents with home-based learning through the remainder of Pennsylvania’s academic school year. Program themes include Wildlife Science, Discover Backyard Wildlife and Celebrate Pennsylvania Birds.
 
 
New Critical Supplies Donation Portal Available

The administration has launched an online portal for individuals, corporations and community organizations to outline any critical medical supplies available for donation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Supplies needed most include surgical/procedure masks; form-fitting respirators (ex. N95/N99); face masks with integrated shield; medical grade alcohol-based hand sanitizer; aprons; protective gloves; protective goggles; isolation gowns; protective suits; and sanitizing wipes. Details and specifications required for any donated materials are available here from the Department of Health.  

To visit the new critical supply donation portal, click here.  
 
 
 
District Office Reminder

In the interest of protecting public health, my offices in Harrisburg, Dallas and Tunkhannock are temporarily closed to walk-in service. However, we remain ready to assist via phone and email during regular office hours Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

For Harrisburg inquiries, please call 717-787-1117 or email bzablots@pahousegop.com.

For Dallas inquiries, please call 570-675-6000 or email ahoussoc@pahousegop.com; or csweeney@pahousegop.com.

For Tunkhannock inquiries, please call 570-836-4777 or email csweeney@pahousegop.com; lcadden@pahousegop.com; or jwilliams@pahousegop.com.

 
  
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Email: kboback@pahousegop.com
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