Op-Ed: Getting Pennsylvania Back to Work Safely & Smartly

Peyton Manning rightly said, “Imitation is obviously a great form of flattery.”

If that is the case, the genesis of Senate Bill 1103 is off to an illustrious start.

After I introduced this bill last week, the Pennsylvania House immediately copied the language and included a mirror version of it in legislation they are considering this week.

The work to incorporate this commonsense and much-needed bill into a House action was led by State Representative Russ Diamond and Rep Dawn Keefer.

Additionally, New Jersey Assemblyman Eric Peterson called and asked if he could run this legislation in his state. The answer – of course – was a resounding yes.

In the end, it is not about who runs this bill. Rather, it’s about getting our people back to work in a safe and smart manner.

It does not matter who gets the credit…we need decisive action now, and this is why I shared this legislation with my colleagues in the House as well with New Jersey Assemblyman Peterson to get something done ASAP.

The background of this bill was triggered as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, when the Governor shut down all businesses not considered to be “life-sustaining.”  This shows how little he understands our workforce because in my book, every job is essential, whether it is a privately-owned business or a large corporation.

As a recently-retired US Army Colonel, I remain concerned how the Wolf Administration has been handling this crisis.  There have been too many draconian measures that did not take into account how “non-essential” jobs are vital to the operation and function of our state.

This has led to many rash decisions by Governor Wolf that may cripple our state economically; decisions that should not have been so broad.

The Governor’s broad, sweeping decisions exceed the measures of harder hit COVID-19 states and are in defiance of Department of Homeland Security guidelines regarding our national infrastructure.

When asked about the dangers that his draconian measures pose to the public – and without any evidence that his mandates are helping contain the virus –  the Governor and his Secretary of Health hide behind bumper stickers.

The problem is that Governor Wolf’s bureaucrats are making these decisions in a vacuum, and not in coordination with people who have actually had to earn a living the old-fashion way.  We need to get this decision-making process out of their hands and back into the hands of the people.

After I introduced the “PA Healthy Citizens & Healthy Businesses Back to Work Initiative,” which would safely and smartly return Pennsylvanians back to work, I worked with several House members to introduce a mirror version of this bill.

As a military strategist, my approach is multifaceted and encompasses a two-prong approach to fix our rudderless ship that the Governor is endeavoring to steer.

Should the House version of Senate Bill 1103 – which is moving faster than my senate bill – hit a dead end (or veto), then we will have another course of action to pursue to get this common sense legislation to the Governor’s desk.

Sadly, since the House version is part of a larger legislative package, it seems clear that the Governor will veto it.  I hope the Senate runs the original version, SB 1103, as a standalone bill that is less likely to be vetoed.

Senate Bill 1103 uses health and safety guidelines by the Center for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration, and would allow businesses to reopen without going through the Governor’s flawed (and now closed) waiver process.

My bill captures what needs to happen to keep a job site or business at “low risk” of spreading the virus.  It then leaves it up to you to reopen for business.

The bottom line of this legislation: the Governor should not pick winners and losers.  The business community should be able to innovate and adapt to stay open.

We are in this fight together.


Senator Mastriano represents the 33rd District in the Pennsylvania Senate. The District includes Adams County and parts of Franklin, Cumberland and York counties.

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