The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Tuesday failed to override Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto of legislation that would have allowed restaurants to reopen at full capacity in some circumstances, falling two votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed.
The House vote of 133-69 would have ended Wolf’s administrative actions, enabled by his state of emergency declaration on March 6, that allowed state Secretary of Health Rachel Levine at “her sole discretion, to suspend or waive any provision of law or regulation … for such length of time as may be necessary to respond to this emergency.”
Republicans control both houses of the Pennsylvania General Assembly but have only 109 votes in the House and 28 votes in the Senate.
The bill passed the House 145-56 on Sept. 23 and the Senate 43-6 a day earlier. It was the latest attempt by the Republican-controlled legislature to blunt Democrat Wolf’s restrictions.
A federal judge in September ruled that Wolf’s actions giving Levine the authority to close “non-life-sustaining” businesses were unconstitutional.
Pennsylvania allows restaurants to open at 25% capacity if they are not self-certified and 50% if they are self-certified.
The bill passed by the legislature would have allowed them to exceed that if they met state and federal social distancing standards or erected appropriate barriers, The Associated Press reported.
While Democrats decried the legislation for putting patrons and restaurant workers at risk, Republicans who supported the measure said the dining establishments still needed to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as state regulators.
“The bottom line is, all this was pulled out of thin air,” said state Rep. Dan Moul of rural south central Adams County, home of the Gettysburg Civil War battlefield. “There is no science, there is no data in which these decision were made to shut down or drastically reduce beyond repair the restaurant situation in Pennsylvania.”
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