HARRISBURG – One day after the state liquor system began offering curbside service, the state House passed legislation that would allow all retail stores to offer the same service.
“If curbside pickup is good enough for the government, it should be good enough for the rest of businesses that want to employ it,” House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster County.
The measure, House Bill 2376, would allow stores selling products closed as non-essential businesses, to allow customers in one at a time, or to sell products by phone or online and deliver it to the customer’s curbside.
Republicans who supported the measure said the legislation will level the playing field to benefit small business owners who are not shut down while large chain stores and, now some of the state-run liquor stores, have been allowed to do business.
“You’re either with the big box stores or you’re with the mom-and-pop stores that are the backbone of this country,” said state Rep. Kurt Masser, R-Northumberland County.
House Bill 2376 passed 112-90.
The legislation comes as the latest front in the battle between the Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican lawmakers pushing to get the state to relax social-distancing restrictions.
The House also passed measures to offer more relief to industries that the governor has already indicated will be allowed to resume some activity.
One measure would allow construction activity to resume and the other would allow car dealerships to reopen.
House Bill 2400 which would call for construction activities stalled by Wolf’s business shutdown to resume.
Wolf has already announced that the state will allow construction to resume on May 8.
State Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Philadelphia, pointed to Wolf’s announcement regarding construction and said it doesn’t make sense for the General Assembly to try to force action on the issue in the two-and-half weeks before Wolf’s target date.
“I’m a little confused about why we’re doing this now,” he said.
The measure passed 111-91.
Wolf on Monday said he intends to sign legislation that would allow online car sales by allowing notaries to work remotely.
Rather than limiting car sales to online purchases, House Bill 2388 would allow car dealers to reopen. House Bill 2388 passed 113-89.
All three bills go now to the Senate.
Tuesday’s votes came a day after Wolf vetoed legislation that passed the General Assembly last week that would have required the governor to develop a plan that would allow non-essential businesses to reopen if they could follow federal safety guidelines.
They also came a day after hundreds of protesters rallied outside the Capitol in Harrisburg to call on the government to allow more businesses to reopen.
On Monday, Wolf announced that he’s targeting May 8 as the date on which the state can begin relaxing social-distancing restrictions. Last Friday, Wolf also announced new mandates for businesses to follow to protect workers, including requirements that both employees and customers must wear masks.
“We need to be driven by what the virus is doing,” he said. “We need to keep people safe.”
Wolf said that it doesn’t make sense to move to reopen businesses before employees feel safe going back to work and customers feel safe returning.
Wolf said he vetoed Senate Bill 613 because he doesn’t think the state is ready to allow a widespread reopening of businesses.
If the General Assembly sends him more legislation that he thinks have the same concerns as SB 613, “I will take the same point of view,” Wolf said.
Democrats echoed Wolf’s concerns and said the state’s not ready to safely begin relaxing social-distancing restrictions.
“This bill feels like Groundhog Day,” said state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia. Senate Bill 613 “was not science-based. That was wrong and the governor vetoed it.”
House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny County, said that the state needs to have adequate testing so it is equipped to manage changing circumstances as the restrictions are relaxed.
If we go back too soon, there will be a resurgence, Dermody said. “This is reckless. This will get people sick.”
State Rep. Brad Roae, R-Crawford County, said that the legislation would provide better social-distancing than the governor’s existing social distancing orders. Under the existing order, big box stores have remained open, meaning people can shop among hundreds of other people. Allowing more small stores to open would give people more alternatives to shop without being in crowds, he said.
“My legislation will actually enhance social distancing,” Roae said.