House Responds to COVID-19 Crisis in Historic Remote Session, Turzai Says
3/25/2020
HARRISBURG – Concluding a historic week of session, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the first time since its establishment in 1682 allowed members to remain in their districts as they voted on legislation – whether in committee or on the floor of the House, Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) announced today.

“The House took this historic step to allow members of Pennsylvania House to vote remotely if desired, yet still legislatively respond to the state, national and global health care crisis,” Turzai said. “As we ask our health care professionals, first responders and other essential workers to be at their jobs, it is necessary that we as elected leaders do our work to help Pennsylvanians during this crisis.”

The House took up measures this week to help Pennsylvania workers who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis, provide medical equipment and supplies for health care facilities to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as addressing various education concerns that have arisen during the COVID-19 crisis and the state’s closure of all schools – including the continued teaching of students.

House Bill 68 will update state Unemployment Compensation law to extend relief to affected employees, and support health care facilities and workers that are treating patients affected by the virus.

To help Pennsylvania’s front-line health care facilities, the House passed legislation (House Bill 1232) which permits the Secretary of the Budget to transfer up to $50 million to purchase medical equipment and supplies for hospitals, nursing facilities, and emergency medical services to meet patient and staff needs to respond to COVID-19.

The emergency Education Code bill (Senate Bill 751) would ensure school districts develop a local plan to continue the teaching of students during the closure of schools, and make their plans

available for parents to review. The bill would also require notice be sent to the parents of all special education students for a plan to ensure the students are receiving “free and appropriate public education.”

The bill further eliminates the 180-day instruction requirement on all public and non-public schools; allow the state to increase the number of allowable flexible instruction days and waive the timeline regarding those days. The legislation will ensure teachers be paid as there will be no loss of state funding due to the health care crisis. Finally, the legislation ensures that once the current crisis has ended, school buses will be ready to provide bus service.

Passing the House and Senate unanimously was a bill to delay the state’s April 28 primary election until June 2 (Senate Bill 422). It now heads to the governor for signature.

The House also advanced two other bills toward final votes, including one (House Bill 1564) to address how counties assess the value of manufactured homes during a countywide reassessment. The bill was amended to include some items prompted by the COVID-19 crisis, such as notary services performed for individuals who can’t be physically present with the notary, and the allowance of local municipal governments to conduct public business remotely (along with requirements for how to do that) during declared disasters and emergencies.

Last week, members voted unanimously to adopt a rule change to allow remote voting during the COVID-19 health emergency. Under this temporary rule, members notify their party’s whip of their voting position on legislation, and the whip, or a member designated by the whip, will file a member’s vote on the House floor. As for the floor itself, only the speaker, leaders, whips or designated members to those positions would need to be present. The process is the same for committee votes, with the relevant party chairperson collecting the votes ahead of a scheduled vote.

Representative Mike Turzai
Speaker of the House
28th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives