State lawmakers in the House of Representatives and Senate are moving a series of bills that would expand the number of leaders engaged in decisions and policy tied to the coronavirus outbreak to include officials from all three branches of government and suggest pathways that differ from those implemented by Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration.

Senate Bill 327, adopted on the House and Senate and now on the way to Gov. Wolf’s desk, would create the COVID-19 Cost and Recovery Task Force that would encompass representatives from all three branches of government.

The task force would be charged with identifying immediate and urgent issues, providing a structure to catalog the state’s response to the disaster emergency and create a recovery plan to help return communities to pre-disaster conditions, lawmakers said.

“In order to effectively manage the current disaster, all branches of the Commonwealth’s government must work cooperatively to identify immediate and urgent issues, provide a structure to catalog the Commonwealth’s response to the disaster emergency and create a forum to receive testimony, information and recommendations from individuals, business and industry,” text in the bill states.

Under the bill, county officials would be authorized to develop an emergency mitigation plan for businesses operating within the county’s jurisdiction in consultation with health and emergency management officials. Any plan would be published on the county’s website and would empower local government to reopen their local economies when it could be done safely.

The bill also establishes a debt reduction review process directing all state agencies responsible for any level of borrowing to examine existing debt and determine if refinancing with current interest rates would help the state save taxpayer money.

House Bill 2388 would require the state Department of Community and Economic Development to issue a waiver to the business closure orders for vehicle dealerships; lawn and garden centers; cosmetology salons and barbershops; messenger services; animal grooming and manufacturing operations. House Bill 2412 would require a similar waiver for providers of legal services, residential and commercial real estate services, including settlement services.

Many of the issues embedded in these proposals involve the ability of business owners and their employees to engage in business activities, protect their investments and earn a living, while still practicing all guidelines and procedures outlined by medical experts to keep people as safe as possible amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The bills have been adopted by the state House and Senate and were forwarded to Gov. Wolf, who has 10 days to sign or veto them.

Regardless of the choice he makes on each of these bills, the governor owes every citizen of this commonwealth a clear and detailed explanation, outlining specific reasons for either adopting or rejecting proposals that have been properly deliberated and advanced by the elected members of the legislative branch of state government.

We await the governor’s response.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.

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