Wolf signs bill to extend pandemic regulatory waivers

The Associated Press
FILE - In this May 12, 2021 file photo, Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at an event in Mechanicsburg, Pa.  Beyond the local races on ballots, Pennsylvania’s primary election will determine the future of a governor’s authority during disaster declarations. Voters statewide Tuesday, May 18 will decide four separate ballot questions, including two on whether to give state lawmakers much more power over disaster declarations. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday signed legislation to extend hundreds of waivers of regulations that his administration approved over the last 15 months under the authority of his pandemic disaster emergency declaration that lawmakers voted to end.

The bill allows the waivers to last through Sept. 30, unless Wolf's administration ends them sooner.

The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the bill unanimously, at Wolf's urging, as a companion to the Republican-penned resolution to end the disaster emergency declaration that passed nearly along partisan lines.

More:Pennsylvania lawmakers eye final steps to end Wolf's emergency declaration, extend waivers

More:Pennsylvania voters impose new limits on governor's powers

Republicans characterized their move to end the declaration as carrying out the will of the people in last month’s statewide referendum. In it, voters approved a Republican-backed constitutional amendment to give lawmakers broad new power over extending and ending disaster emergencies.

The resolution won't take effect until next week, at least, according to Wolf's administration. Four counties had yet to submit signed certifications of their election results from last month, and those were expected next week, according to Wolf's Department of State.

The suspended regulations cover a wide swath of government requirements, including licensing, inspections and training.

The Wolf administration maintains that dissolving the disaster emergency does not affect a health secretary’s disease-prevention authority to issue mask-wearing and stay-at-home orders or shut down schools and nonessential businesses.

Wolf, in any case, has ended those measures, as the vaccine has stemmed the spread of the virus. The exception is a mask-wearing mandate for unvaccinated adults that tracks federal guidance, to stay in place until June 28 or 70% of adults are vaccinated, whichever is first.