Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf file

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.

(The Center Square) – State lawmakers dropped a stack of bills on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk Thursday that would send tens of thousands back to work amid the pandemic-induced economic shutdown.

Among the workers prioritized in legislation signed off by Republican majorities in both chambers are hair stylists, barbers, real estate agents, car dealers, animal groomers and messengers, among others – all workers who found themselves idle when Wolf closed nonessential businesses in March. Lawn and garden centers and manufacturing operations would also receive waivers alongside big box stores that Republicans argue fulfill the same needs.

“These industries were deemed ‘nonessential’ by the decision makers granting waivers,” said House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster. “But if you have a mortgage or put food on the table for your family, your work is absolutely essential and today’s vote is for every Pennsylvanian who works every day to provide for their families.”

Another proposal would give local officials leeway to reopen on their own schedule, bucking the governor’s phased plan that categorizes counties based on regions and color coded levels of danger: red, yellow and green. As of Friday, more than half of the state will be under the less restrictive mandates of the yellow phase, while 30 counties remain in the red, with stay at home orders in effect until June 4.

Wolf is unlikely to approve any of the proposals. The governor has repeatedly criticized attempts to break from his administration’s mandates and said he will not sign legislation that opens businesses “prematurely.” He warned on Monday counties would forfeit disaster aid and businesses would lose licenses if their local officials broke ranks and reopened without the state’s approval.

“I cannot allow residents in a red county to get sick because their local officials can’t see the invisible risk of the virus in their community,” he said. “So, I must, and I will impose consequences if a county locally lifts restrictions when it has not yet been given the go-ahead by the state."

Staff Reporter

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania's General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.