Bill to prevent retail shutdowns in disasters passes Pa House

(Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)

The Pennsylvania state House on Wednesday gave divided approval to a Republican-sponsored bill to let many retail stores remain open during a declared state of disaster emergency, which backers said would safely prevent smaller businesses from going broke.

The chamber voted 117-84 to allow retailers to be open if they restrict operations to a single employee and a single customer, or can fulfill drive-up sales that limit contact.

Six Democrats joined the unanimous Republican caucus in voting for the legislation. Retail stores have long reopened, but the bill would affect future disaster emergencies.

Rep. Brad Roae, R-Crawford, said the widespread retail closures a year ago caused many to close and people lost their jobs.

Roae said large retail stores were allowed to remain open, while smaller operations that could not get a waiver from the Wolf administration remained shuttered.

"With the governor's orders, we were all forced to go to be amongst hundreds of other shoppers at big box stores, rather than be by ourselves in a small retail store," Roae said.

Rep. Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery, said that instead of revoking the retail closures authority that Wolf exercised, lawmakers ought to pass a plan to provide additional financial help to small businesses.

The proposal was sent to the state Senate, where a similar bill died last year, for its consideration.



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