Pennsylvania's Dem governor vetoes GOP-passed legislation to get his state back to work

Last week, the Pennsylvania state Senate approved two bills that would provide much needed clarity and common sense to the process of deciding which businesses can safely operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46).

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 613 requires the governor to create clear guidelines for businesses to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Comply with mitigation strategies and follow CDC guidelines.  

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 327 restores local control and county governments the option to develop and implement their own plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, following CISA guidelines.

Governor Wolf vetoed both bills.

In a veto message, Wolf said, "This is not an easy decision, but it is the right course for Pennsylvania. Reopening tens of thousands of businesses too early will only increase the spread of the virus, place more lives at risk, increase the death tolls, and extend the length of the economic hardships created by the pandemic."

The bill was approved last week along party lines in the House and Senate.

On Monday afternoon there was a simultaneous noon rally in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg to urge Governor Wolfe to consider reopening Pennsylvania businesses[.]

"Independence"? (Photo credit: ErgoSum88 [cropped].)

When we use the phrase "mom and pop stores," we sometimes forget that they are just that: small businesses run by — mom and pop.  In many cases, both partners are also life partners, and as such, they do not have another income they can rely upon.  They have made sacrifices and put in the hard work necessary to build that American dream and to ultimately be a job-provider to those in their communities.  A prolonged shutdown will kill mom-and-pop entrepreneurs — the backbone of our country.

Businesses were left to navigate through the unique circumstances that have been created by the unexpected and sudden nature of the shutdown, coupled with the vague uncertainty of the timing and protocol for reopening.

With little or no ability to adopt a new business model for revenue generation, Geno Levi Salon found itself scrambling when the governor issued the mandated shutdown.  Cindy Levi explained, "Both my husband and I derive our livelihood from our salon business, as do many other small business owners around the country.  For those of us with that entrepreneurial spirit, the consequence of this situation is huge.  Not only has our personal income to cover our own expenses gone to $0, but it is now 100% our personal responsibility to cover the monthly expenses of our business in order to keep it afloat until re-opening.  There remained the issue of what this would look like from a financial standpoint for their staff, many of whom provide the primary income in their households."

The "essential business" label has left many consumers frustrated.  Norm Candelore of Candelore Barking Beauties: "Professional dog grooming is about more than just bathing and haircuts.  Grooming is vital to our pets' health.  Grooming detects health issues early.  Expressing of anal glands to prevent impacted cavities, overgrown toenails can cause hip complications and damage paw pads, and ear infections due to overgrown hair all require necessary treatments."  Candelore adds, "What our governor has done to our business has led to 21 employees out of work."

Mike Pasalocua, owner of Angello's Restaurant, a former police officer, has been running his restaurant for 38 years.  The last two years, his sales increased.  He finally had reserve capital.  Mike was planning to buy a new catering van in 2020.  He was full steam ahead — until he wasn't.

"It all came to a crashing halt," said Pasalocua.  "I've spent the entirety of my reserve money.  I kept managers on salary for three weeks.  We did our best to save food, work through reservations, and clean the restaurant top to bottom.  After meeting payroll, payables due to vendors, utilities, lost inventory, mortgage loans, first quarter taxes, insurance and maintenance issues, I have no money to pay myself."

We are not stoking the fires of industry, and as a result, we are witnessing the far-reaching effects of industrial slowdowns.  Something we don't even consider as we pop open that can of Coke or beer: The supply of carbon dioxide (CO2) used for carbonation and essential for beer and soft drinks is dwindling.  Ethanol-producers are necessary to the production, and their production has been diminished due to the low number of ethanol plants still in production.

Then there is the energy component already reeling from a mild winter, depressed natural gas prices, higher than normal inventories, and challenging market conditions, we learn that the coal industry is now facing headwinds from halting economic activity.  Jimmy Brock, president and CEO of CONSOL Energy, said, "Our primary customers and power plants are struggling with low power prices and even lower capacity factors, as a result of unparalleled low demand.  With the industrial and manufacturing sectors shuttering operations, and the residential electricity needs unable to make up for commercial demand, we have seen coal production quickly come offline, leading to thousands of workers, small businesses, and entire communities, feeling the widespread uncertainty as many others across the nation."

CONSOL Energy's, commitment is to the safety and health of their employees and that is paramount to anything they do. Recently they made the decision to temporarily stop production at their Bailey Mine in Greene County PA in response to two positive cases of COVID-19. About the move Brock said; "That decision was one we did not take lightly but was the right thing to do for our employees, their families and our communities". He added; "As we continue to find solutions in these challenging times, my hope is that we do not forget about the miners whose critical work every single day ensures reliable, low-cost electricity that serves as the feedstock to the very economy we are attempting to re-open, and that so many Americans depend on" .  

As Americans our hearts break for those who lost their battle with COVID 19. Entrepreneurs have weathered many storms over the years, none quite like this, but I believe they are up for the challenge – with our support.  We can, and have, demonstrated the ability to heal; physically, emotionally, and now financially.  We will roll up our collective sleeves as we have always done and do what is necessary to restore and reopen American businesses, and by doing so, put Americans back to work.  We will have a new normal, no doubt, but we will adjust, and we will move on. We are a creative people, we Americans. We will figure out a new path to economic success. We will persevere.  You can count on it. All that is necessary is for state governments to give us back that freedom to move forward. Trusting, as they should, that we will do it in a thoughtful, careful, and safe way. 

Rose Tennent of Pennsylvania is on the Advisory Board for the Women for Trump Coalition and has been a prominent figure for 20 years as a syndicated conservative political talk show host.