Veto Override Vote On Governor’s Emergency Declaration Fails

On September 2nd, in the wake of Gov. Tom Wolf’s quiet renewal of the COVID-19 related emergency declaration, the House took up a motion to override the governor’s veto of legislation that would have ended the declaration. That motion failed by a 118-84 vote – 16 votes shy of the two-thirds needed. Nine Democrats voted with Republicans on the attempted override.

House Resolution 836 passed the General Assembly in July. The resolution aimed to revoke the emergency declaration and the Wolf Administration’s gradual county-by-county phase-in plan for re-opening the state’s economy, in favor of re-opening businesses in accordance with federal law and requiring adherence to health and safety guidance issued by the state and the Centers for Disease Control. Lawmakers contended that the General Assembly had the authority to end the state of emergency declaration; while the Wolf Administration countered that the state Constitution only affords the Executive the authority to issue and later terminate a disaster emergency. While legislative leaders filed their case to the Commonwealth Court, the governor appealed to the state Supreme Court – which has a Democratic majority – and the Supreme Court ruled that H.R. 836 didn’t end the emergency order because it was never presented to the governor for a signature.

With the House’s failure to garner the two-thirds vote required, the Governor’s veto has been sustained.

Member News- September 9, 2020

PPL Electric Utilities Hits Reliability Milestone

Smart grid devices, like the one pictured in this installation on the PPL Electric grid in 2017, are helping to improve reliability across the entire PPL grid. These devices work with an automated power restoration system to automatically isolate an outage, reduce the number of affected customers, and reroute power to keep the lights on for more customers. Without such a system, an outage’s effect is far greater and restoration time is extended.

PPL Electric Utilities’ automated smart grid power restoration network has enabled the utility to avoid one million customer outages since 2015.

The milestone, which PPL believes has no equal among U.S. electric utilities, means its 1.4 million customers have collectively avoided 100 million minutes in the dark. That translates to 190 years.

The smart grid network – a combination of state-of-the-art sensors and switches, coupled with advanced software systems – is part of a significant investment made by PPL in the power grid overall over the past decade. Smart grid instantaneously reroutes power in the event of a problem, keeping the outage area contained to the smallest possible footprint.

Smart grid is in place across our grid and continuously works to support strong reliability for all our customers, around the clock.

Hitting one million avoided outages represents our commitment to using technology to benefit customers and provide superior reliability. Click here to see a video on this achievement on behalf of those we serve.

Meuser Recognized for Pro-Business Record

On Wednesday, August 26th, Congressman Dan Meuser was recognized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with the Spirit of Enterprise Award. Since 1965, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has rated senators and members of Congress based on the votes they have cast for or against business priorities. While casting pro-growth votes remains essential, the U.S. Chamber now gives lawmakers credit for showing leadership on positive legislation and reaching across the aisle to get things done.

“The Congressman has been a great friend of business during his first term in Congress. We look forward to his continued partnership and know that businesses in Pennsylvania’s 9th District are better off because of him,” said Ryan Gleason, Congressional & Public Affairs Manager at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Members of the Columbia Montour Chamber will have the opportunity to discuss issues with the Congressman at a virtual event scheduled for Tuesday, October 6th at 12:30. Details are available here.

Montour Commissioners Provide Small Business Grants

The Montour County Commissioners have awarded a total of $384,868 in financial assistance to 31 small businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19. The Commissioner approved grants of up to $20,000 per business at their September 8th meeting. The funds were provided through the COVID-19 County Relief Block Grant from the CARES Act.

Ken Holdren, Chair of the Board of Commissioners, expressed his appreciation to the committee that developed the program guidelines and reviewed applications. The committee was chaired by Commissioner Trevor Finn and included representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau, Danville Business Alliance, DRIVE, and County Planning Commission. The Central Susquehanna Community Foundation administered the application process.

A second application round for small businesses is planned for early October.

Employers Invited to Discuss Workforce Needs with Higher Education

Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education’s (PASSHE) 14 universities offer programs and opportunities that prepare students for successful lives and careers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In November of 2019, the State System held a two-day workforce summit with 80 chief executives and human resources officers from across the Commonwealth. The summit identified the skills and competencies needed within six industry sectors: advanced manufacturing, agri-business, information technology, healthcare, finance & business services, and energy.

As a next step in its work to identify workforce needs, PASSHE is coordinating Regional Workforce Assemblies that are being offered to businesses (free of charge) within each region this Fall to provide participants with the opportunity to validate the skills and competencies required for in-demand occupations, share information about existing partnerships and programs dedicated to building our workforce, and make connections for building solutions to meet workforce demands now and in the future. The Northern Regional assembly, which includes Columbia and Montour counties, will be held from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M. on September 24th . Assemblies will include condensed and interactive sessions between 20 and 45 minutes long with a break for lunch.

Comprehensive information and registration is available at www.prepared4pa.org/assemblies.

Governor Wolf Announces Restaurants May Increase Indoor Occupancy to 50 Percent Starting September 21

On Tuesday, September 8th, Governor Tom Wolf announced that restaurants may increase indoor occupancy to 50 percent starting September 21. To ensure that these businesses operate safely as Pennsylvania continues to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and to instill customers and employees with confidence knowing that they can dine safely, restaurants will commit to strictly complying to all public health safety guidelines and orders through a self-certification process.

Restaurants that self-certify will appear in the Open & Certified Pennsylvania searchable online database of certified restaurants across the commonwealth. Consumers will be able to access this database and find certified businesses in their area, ensuring that consumers can make more informed choices about the food establishments they are looking to patronize.

The self-certification documents and information about the Open & Certified Pennsylvania program can be found online starting September 21 and will contain the following: 

  • A list of requirements contained in the current restaurant industry guidance and enforcement efforts;  
  • A statement that the owner has reviewed and agrees to follow these requirements; 
  • The business’ maximum indoor occupancy number based on the fire code; and 
  • A statement that the owner understands that the certification is subject to penalties for unsworn falsification to authorities.  

Any restaurant that wishes to increase to 50 percent indoor capacity on September 21 must complete the online self-certification process by October 5. Business owners should keep a copy of the self-certification confirmation they will receive by e-mail. Social distancing, masking and other mitigation measures must be employed to protect workers and patrons. Further, starting September 21 restaurants that have alcohol sales will close alcohol sales at 10:00 PM.

Additionally, restaurants that self-certify will be mailed Open & Certified Pennsylvania branded materials, such as window clings and other signage designating their certification, which they can display for customers and employees.  

The self-certification will be used as part of ongoing enforcement efforts conducted by Department of Agriculture and Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, and will be shared with the departments of State, Labor & Industry and Health, and other enforcement agencies. Restaurants operating at 50 percent capacity will have their self-certification status checked as part of ongoing enforcement by these agencies starting on October 5, and will focus on educating businesses. The commonwealth will continue its measured approach to easing restrictions, keeping the rest of the targeted mitigation tactics specific to the food retail industry in place as restaurants increase capacity to 50 percent.

The self-certification process is modeled after a similar mitigation effort in Connecticut, and the alcohol sales limitation is modeled after a similar mitigation effort in Ohio.

Restaurant owners with additional questions about the self-certification program can contact [email protected].