Despite Wolf’s order, GOP lawmaker wants to send Pa. back to work | Tuesday Morning Coffee

March 31, 2020 7:14 am

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams.

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
A Republican state lawmaker from Adams County says he wants to send Pennsylvanians back to work — despite a Wolf administration order mandating the shutdown of all “non-life sustaining” businesses.

In a memo seeking support for his planSen. Doug Mastriano accused Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf of picking “winners and losers” with his shutdown order, and said the waiver process the administration had set up allowing business owners to appeal the order is “flawed, ineffective, lacks accountability, has no oversight, and is riddled with unconstitutional powers.”

As it’s currently written, Mastriano’s proposal would allow businesses to reopen their doors if they “[utilize] health and safety guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control, and the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration,” he said in a statement.

“This legislation will allow all businesses to reopen if they agree to abide by Centers for Disease Control mitigation measures to contain the spread of the virus,” Mastriano said.

Thousands of businesses have applied for waivers to the shutdown order. The administration has been forced to revoke waivers for businesses with ties to Wolf and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson. Questions have also been raised about the uniformity and transparency of the process.

On Tuesday, the PA Post and Spotlight PA reported that Wolf’s former business has continued to operate despite having its waiver rescinded.

During a Monday briefing, Wolf acknowledged those inconsistencies, and said the state was doing the best it could to ensure the process was being applied fairly and uniformly.

“There are human beings making these decision so they get it wrong,” Wolf said. “Sometimes we uncover them and try to rectify them … We’re doing what we can to make sure the waivers are handed out in a consistent fashion. It’s also true that, from time to time, we have made mistakes.”

On Monday, Wolf put four more counties — Carbon, Cumberland, Dauphin and Schuylkill counties — under a stay-at-home order, bringing the statewide total to 22 counties. The order remains in effect until April 30. He also extended his shutdown orders for schools and non-essential businesses.

Asked Monday about Mastriano’s proposal, Wolf dismissed it, saying the state needed to do a “hard stop” as a matter of protecting public health and safety.

“We’re trying to make sure that Pennsylvanians are safe and employers and employees alike,” he said. “To the extent we can keep people from congregating, we’re bending the curve and buying time so we can get to the point where our healthcare system can accommodate the demand for services.”

Mastriano could not immediately be reached for comment. But in his statement, the central Pennsylvania lawmaker did say he believes it’s important for businesses to reopen — as long as it’s done safely.

“The closure order impacted tens of thousands of businesses, millions of jobs and puts at stake the economic well-being of our citizens,” he said. adding that single parent families, young couples, non-profits, small businesses and the independently-employed are among the hardest hit by the administration’s order.

On Monday, Wolf, meanwhile, said that while he wanted to see the state’s economy get back on its feet, the most immediate concern was flattening the curve of infection.

(Image: Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association joint campaign)

Our Stuff.
No sector of Pennsylvania’s economy has been left untouched by COVID-19, one expert has concluded. Stephen Caruso has the story.

Elizabeth Hardison has the details of a ‘drive-by’ protest in Philadelphia, where activists called for the mass release of inmates as COVID-19 rears its head in state, county and local detention centers.

Cassie Miller has the details on the creative methods that Census advocates are using to get people to participate in the decennial headcount when they can’t reach them directly.

Gov. Tom Wolf extended his stay at home order to four more Pennsylvania counties on Monday, and indefinitely closed Pennsylvania’s public schools.

Erie Correspondent Hannah McDonald talks to a local man who’s trying to help the local restaurant community through a hugely popular Facebook group he founded.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Simon F. Haeder, of Penn State, and Kelli Caseman, of the nonprofit Think Kids, explain why it’s more important than ever right now not to let at-risk kids slip through the cracks. And opinion regular Mark O’Keefe says House Republicans put political advantage ahead of public health by insisting on holding a trio of special elections for state House earlier this month.  

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 26: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the beginning of a new conference with members of the coronavirus task force, including Vice President Mike Pence in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House February 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump updated the American people about what his administration’s ‘whole of government’ response to the global coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The Trump White House has granted Pennsylvania’s request for a major disaster declaration, the Inquirer reports.
Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities have continued a ban on in-person classes and internships through the summer, the Post-Gazette reports.
With unemployment numbers skyrocketing, food bank use has tripled in the statePennLive reports.
With Pennsylvania schools closed indefinitely, officials at the PIAA are keeping winter championships and spring sports in limbo, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:

Unemployed Philadelphians lined up for free food on Monday, WHYY-FM reports.
Emotions are ‘running high’ as Erie’s Wabtec resumes production, the Times-News reports.
Americans for Prosperity’s political wing is getting behind U.S. Rep. Scott Perry’s, R-10th District, re-election bid, PoliticsPA reports.
States and hospitals are coming to grips with medical reports.
Roll Call explains how the pandemic could overwhelm legal help for poor Americans.

What Goes On.
Time TBA:
 Daily COVID-19 briefing.

Heavy Rotation.
It was only a matter of time before we made a quarantine playlist of our own. So here’s the one we put together over the weekend. Play this one loud. We sure did.

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Pop Music History Fact.
Today in 1943, the immortal “Oklahoma!” by Rodgers and Hammerstein debuted on Broadway. Fun fact: Its original title was “Away We Go.”

And now you’re up to date.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.