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Grove bill creating task force to 'expeditiously' reopen Pa. clears committee

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch

On Monday, state Rep. Seth Grove's legislation aiming to create a task force to "expeditiously" reopen the state's economy cleared the House State Government Committee.

The Dover Township Republican's bill passed through the committee along party lines. It came the same day as a rally organized by a new group called "ReOpen PA" brought 3,000 to 5,000 people to the state Capitol to call on Gov. Tom Wolf to reopen the economy.

“As we move to the recovery phase, it is important for all branches of government to have a voice and share opinions on what recovery should look like," Grove said. 

More:Thousands protest at Capitol with calls to reopen Pa.'s economy

More:York County sees 7 new virus-related deaths, statewide toll spikes

Rep. Seth Grove , left, Attorney General Josh Shapiro and members of the General Assembly introduce, Monday, January 13, 2020, a package of bills designed to curb Medicaid fraud. The press conference took place in the Capitol rotunda. Bill Kalina photo

The bill moves to the House floor, but no vote had been scheduled. 

The task force would be composed of members representing of all three branches of state government and would be tasked with developing a recovery plan to "expeditiously resume mission-critical functions."

Those include the reopening of housing, transportation, education and other economic sectors to help the economy bounce back from the disastrous effects of the coronavirus and the mitigation efforts to stop its spread.

With a focus on both short-term and long-term actions, the task force would also be able to establish separate advisory committees to review other issues related to COVID-19.

With 16 legislators on the task force, though, Democrats are concerned that the legislative branch would have too much power, said Bill Patton, House Democratic Caucus spokesman.

More broadly, though, Democrats say Republicans are trying to reopen the economy too quickly, which health experts say could prolong the effects of the virus.

"There's not a disagreement about whether businesses should open. It's a question of timing and degree," Patton said.

On Wednesday, Wolf vetoed Senate legislation that would have allowed businesses to open so long as they complied with guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Wolf also has promised to veto another bill awaiting a concurrence vote in the state House that would give counties the ability to create their own mitigation plans — allowing businesses to open if they were to comply with the same guidelines. 

Wolf, who on Monday extended the state's stay-at-home order until May 8, has insisted on a  gradual approach to reopen the economy. 

As of noon Thursday, there were 546 confirmed coronavirus cases in York County, with seven virus-related deaths.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health slashed the state’s COVID-19 death toll on Thursday by 201, saying probable deaths it had previously included in the count were eliminated after further investigation.

The overall death toll now stands at 1,421, down from 1,622 reported a day earlier.

Statewide, there are 37,053 total cases, confirmed and probable.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.

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