Boyle, State Government Committee Democrats: GOP bills put profits over human lives

PHILADELPHIA, April 6 Today, House State Government Committee chairperson Kevin Boyle, D-Phila., and other members of the committee released the following statements in response to H.B.s 2400 and 2376 , which House Republicans introduced to end stay-at-home social distancing measures and reopen statewide all retail and construction operations closed by Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 mitigations efforts:

“What good is an increase in quarterly earnings if customers are dying? Of course, we will have to take steps to reopen stores to the public eventually, but communities will lose a lot more than money if we force them to open too soon,” Boyle said. “Experts on both sides of the aisle agree that we have one shot to reopen the economy, or we risk setting ourselves down an even worse financial path. Then, it will be even more clear that the human cost of these shortsighted bills will really have been for nothing.”

"Today, the State Government Committee ran two bills that, as written, would diminish the efforts of the mitigation protocol currently in place in the commonwealth. We have yet to reach the ‘surge,’ and language is being proposed to potentially place citizens in jeopardy,” Rep. Pam DeLissio, D- D-Montgomery/Phila., added. “First, we need to protect the health and welfare of citizens. The robust state and federal packages of bills will help to keep citizens afloat for an interim period. Subsequently, we can look at when to start phasing out the mitigation."

“These bills make a clear, direct statement that the House GOP values profits over lives,” Rep. Joe Hohenstein, D-Phila., added. “There’s no possible way for workers to safely return to retail stores and construction sites without risking their safety right now. That’s not a risk that I’m willing to take.”

"Now is the time we must act to help mitigate COVID-19, flatten the curve and ultimately protect families across the commonwealth from this deadly virus," said Fitzgerald, D-Phila. "However, the legislation brought before us in committee today does the opposite, putting financial gain before public health. As public servants, we have a responsibility to do what's best for our neighbors, which is why I strongly opposed these bills."

“Governor Wolf and Secretary Levine are balancing two very important concerns: statewide safety and allowing a certain amount of economic activity. It’s not perfect or easy. It’s complicated, and the bills we saw today in the State Government Committee don’t make that better, or clearer or easier,” Rep. Joseph Webster, D-Montgomery said.  “These bills would open full sectors of the economy, across the commonwealth, creating enormous health risks at precisely the worst time for Pennsylvania. It’s reckless and needlessly political. We need unity and leadership.”

“I take exception to HB2376. The intent is to help out small businesses, but it is utterly impractical and would expose people to needless risk of contagion,” Rep. Wendy Ullman, D-Bucks, said. “It would allow one person in a store at a time, with one store employees.  Imagine the shopper at your local bookstore, clothing store, or specialty store. They’re trying on jeans, flipping the pages of books, examining dishes or fishing rods or whatever they are shopping for - how on earth is that store employee supposed to wipe down those goods so they cannot expose the next customer to the virus?  And there may only be one person in the store, but there may be 20, 30 or 40 people on the sidewalk waiting for their turn.  This bill is utterly impractical.  The only certain result would be to expose more people to the virus.”

"As our state and our nation faces a catastrophic pandemic, we as legislators need to be working together as one unit serving the needs of our entire state,” state Rep. Jared Solomon, D-Phila., added. “When we all took oaths we vowed to serve the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, not just one county or one district or one municipality; any effort to pit county and against county, or to minimize the suffering in one district does our entire state and its people a disservice."