Lawmakers keep COVID-19 regulatory waivers for 6 more months

Regional News

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature is again extending hundreds of regulatory waivers that Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration had approved under its pandemic-related disaster emergency authority.

Lawmakers voted unanimously Wednesday to add another six months to a prior extension they granted, as the delta variant of the coronavirus is causing a statewide surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Lawmakers in June voted to end Wolf’s pandemic-related disaster emergency declaration, under new authority handed to them by voters in May’s referendum to change the constitution.

At the same time, lawmakers extended the hundreds of regulatory waivers through Thursday, the end of September.

The power to suspend regulations are the key component of a governor’s authority under a disaster declaration, and the suspended regulations cover a wide swath of government functions and the economy, including over licensing, inspections and training.

The legislation does not affect Wolf’s statewide mask mandate for schools, which requires students, staff and visitors at K-12 schools and child care facilities to wear masks while indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

Under the bill, the regulations that were waived by Wolf’s administration can remain on ice and unenforced until March 31, 2022. Wolf’s administration, however, would have the authority to enforce any of the waived regulations before then.

Wolf can declare another disaster emergency, should he need to.

Lawmakers, though, have the newly granted authority under the referendum to end a new declaration by a majority vote, rather than the two-thirds vote necessary previously.

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