Virus Outbreak-Pennsylvania

Brad Shepler, a barber who resumed cutting hair despite it being prohibited under Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's coronavirus shutdown orders, walks out of his barber shop to hold a new conference with local state lawmakers, Thursday, May 14, 2020 in Enola, Pa. Shepler also received a warning letter from the state's licensing agency.

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania’s Republican majority – growing ever more frustrated with Gov. Tom Wolf’s prolonged economic shutdown – failed Wednesday in a late evening bid to rescue their preferred reopening plan.

House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, said the chamber didn’t secure the two-thirds majority necessary to override Wolf’s veto on House Bill 2388, a measure that would have given operational waivers to car dealers, animal groomers, lawn and garden centers, hair salons, barber shops and manufacturing facilities.

Come Friday, 49 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties will have progressed to the yellow stage of Wolf’s phased reopening plan – leaving less than a third in the most restrictive red stage, with stay at home orders in effect until at least June 4. In yellow phase, most businesses can reopen with precautions in place, but movie theaters, salons, gyms and public schools will stay closed.

“This bill would have allowed a variety of businesses to safely reopen in the same way national retailers, government offices and countless other businesses approved by this administration are currently working,” Cutler said. “Instead, these Pennsylvanians, and the families who depend on their income, will continue to suffer.”

The blow is just the latest in a string of defeats against Republican majorities in both chambers dead set on serving proposals to the governor to restart the economy ahead of his administration’s own plan – one that has long been criticized as too restrictive and too slow. Some 1.8 million residents have applied for jobless benefits since the widespread closures went into effect on March 23 and some will face permanent unemployment as small businesses fold under the strain.

While the override vote snagged some Democrat support, most of the party stayed aligned behind Wolf. Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, trashed the move Wednesday as “reckless theatrics.”

“Because this state's people took the right steps to beat COVID-19, lives have been saved,” he said. “Now’s not a time for taking senseless risks. Leaders in both parties should be able to agree on serious approaches and put people before politics.”

House Republicans aren’t giving up, however. The chamber’s Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee will convene early Thursday to consider a motion rescinding Wolf’s emergency declaration, ultimately undermining his authority to close businesses and implement enforcement actions against those that don’t comply.

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.