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WILKES-BARRE — State Sen. John Yudichak Thursday said as businesses close and the ranks of the unemployed rise to Great Depression era levels, the Wolf Administration continues to squander opportunities to work collaboratively with the state legislature to protect lives and save the Pennsylvania economy from collapse.

Yudichak. I-Swoyersville, made the comment after Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed three bills related to the state’s response to COVID-19 that the governor said violate the separation of powers and make other changes that go against the administration’s measured plan for reopening the state safely.

“Since the beginning of this month, my administration has been gradually transitioning counties from the restrictive red phase to an intermediate yellow phase,” Wolf wrote.

Senate Bill 327 would authorize counties to develop and implement their own mitigation plans and decide when businesses within their county can reopen and includes a provision that prohibits commonwealth agencies from performing an essential governmental operation, the promulgation of regulations, until 90 days after the COVID-19 disaster emergency declaration is terminated unless the legislature grants permission for a regulation to advance.

House Bill 2388 and House Bill 2412 would allow various industries to reopen in red phase counties.

“The decisions to move counties from the red phase to the yellow phase are based on the advice of expert epidemiologists,” Wolf said. “These decisions are not based just on the number of cases of COVID-19, but are also based on other critical factors, such as how community members interact, the county’s number of potential transmission points, a county’s geographic location, the capacity to undertake contact tracing, and testing availability.”

“It appears the Administration, cloistered in a room with a single ideological viewpoint, remains openly dismissive of political leaders and millions of Pennsylvanians who believe we can safely operate our businesses as countless essential businesses have done from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Yudichak said.

“Crisis demands collaboration, consensus, and common sense. Regrettably, by governing through legislative vetoes in favor of unilateral executive orders,the Wolf Administration has abandoned these principles and the rights of Pennsylvanians who deserve to have a voice in their state government.”

However, Gov. Wolf said the real estate industry can now conduct limited business-related activities, and provided this guidance for the industry to operate in red and yellow phase counties.

State Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, said HB-2388 was bi-partisan legislation that would allow businesses to open in a greatly modified operation following CDC guidelines.

“The question is whether a small business can operate safely,” Toohil said. “This legislation is an attempt to salvage dying small businesses and reduce inequalities from the currently operating big box stores versus mom and pops who have been forced to close.”

Toohil said Democratic votes were lost on the override., but she believes that constituents will continue to reach out to their legislators to change their vote.

“Constituents want to salvage their livelihoods, support small businesses, and be afforded the trust to do so safely,” Toohil said.

Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, said as the state keeps a tight grip on its power to shut down the economy, many people have begun to believe the governor fundamentally misunderstands how the economy actually works, and ignores the long-term implications for workers and merchants.

“Every day we hear about additional businesses that are closing forever, costing more jobs and livelihoods,” Baker said. “How do you explain to professionals that their competitors are open, but they cannot simply by matter of location? Or that their customers are crossing county lines to do their business where they are able? Or that legitimate activities are being forced underground, away from oversight?”

Baker said the vetoed bills are not a challenge to the governor’s authority.

“They are a warranted legislative response to executive decisions that appear more arbitrary and unduly controlling as weeks go by,” Baker said. “It does not seem the governor and his key officials are reasonably assessing the harm of continuing economic loss versus the relative risk of reopening.”

Baker went on to say that it is noteworthy that Wolf allowed realtors to go forward as he was vetoing the legislation.

“That sure looks like putting power ahead of principle,” Baker said. “They did not consult communities going into the shut down, and they are not giving much consideration to local views coming out of it.”

Baker added that most Pennsylvanians wish there was more consultation and cooperation during the pandemic.

“And so do I,” she said. “As we know, that only works if it is a two-way street. The vetoes unfortunately show we are not there yet.”

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.