As companies scramble to comply with upcoming federal rules on COVID-19 vaccines and testing, some state lawmakers are preparing to grant more exemptions to Pennsylvania workers.
On Tuesday, Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams, and Sen. Chris Gebhard, R-Lebanon, introduced a bill that would exempt workers from vaccine rules if they could occasionally provide antibody test results. The bill, first discussed in October, has several co-sponsors, including Senator Judy Ward, R-Blair, of the Senate Committee on Health and Social Services.
The proposal would free workers from vaccine requirements if they provide a negative test every two weeks, or “Proof of immunity” in the form of an antibody test every three months – an indication that a previously infected person is still showing an immune response.
“For decades, scientists have recognized the ability of the human body to naturally repel disease”, the sponsors said in a memo.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends vaccination even for people already infected with the disease.
The Senate proposal comes as employers brace for a federal workplace safety rule that would mandate vaccines and tests for large businesses. The rule – issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after an order from President Joe Biden – requires companies with more than 100 employees to require vaccinations or weekly tests for workers.
The order has been in limbo as Republican-led state governments file a lawsuit to stop it. A federal appeals court approved the order’s entry into force in early February, but opponents are still seeking to block it, citing unfair pressure on employers.
Federal safety officials have loosened expectations amid the standoff, noting that employers making a good faith effort to follow the rule will not be punished if they don’t immediately meet all the requirements.
Some states, meanwhile, have made efforts to undermine the rule before it goes into effect. In Florida last month, the state government banned employers from issuing vaccination warrants.
State lawmakers, U.S. senators and an array of activist groups are rushing to play down the financial blow to student loan borrowers as Biden pushes the repayment deadline for another three months.
Progressive activists and lawmakers have long called for an extended hiatus or outright cancellation of federal student loan repayments, which were scheduled to resume on February 1 before Biden announced an extension on Wednesday. Borrowers can now wait until May.
Americans in debt to federal student lenders have failed to repay their loans during much of the pandemic; during the election campaign last year, Biden pledged to write off thousands of dollars in debt per person.
At least one representative in Harrisburg is preparing to reduce this debt regardless of the repayment date.
This week, Representative Nick Pisciottano D-Allegheny proposed a bill to use money from the US state bailout to cover thousands of dollars in debt for those who attended certain colleges and schools. of trades.
The bill has four co-sponsors, although its future is uncertain in a GOP-controlled chamber.
“Pennsylvania student loan borrowers need help, and we have the capacity to provide some relief,” Pisciottano told his colleagues this week.
US senators, too, are asking for temporary relief. On Monday, 10 senators, including Senator Bob Casey, D-Pa., Signed a letter to the Department of Education calling for a long-term end to the wage garnishment for unpaid student loans.
Noting that more than 9 million Americans are in default on federal student loans, senators said harsh tactics – including seizing child tax credit payments and using aggressive collection agencies – hit the most vulnerable people in the country. The letter calls for an end to the wage garnishment as long as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
At least one group affiliated with the Democrats say the congressional mapping process has hit a wall, with deadlines approaching in the coming weeks.
The National Redistricting Action Fund sued last week to shut down the process, effectively returning the case to state courts. If the group is successful, they would effectively repeat the situation in 2018, where the state Supreme Court drew its own map during a legislative deadlock.
Members of the General Assembly worked on their own maps, with some early versions potentially released to the press and released for public discussion. Lawmakers must redraw the map with 17 seats instead of the previous 18, due to Pennsylvania’s declining share of the national population.
State officials have given deadlines in December and January for the passage of the new card. County and state election officials need cards well in advance of the state’s May Congressional primaries.
In 2018, it wasn’t until mid-February that the Supreme Court released its own map.
Ryan Brown covers statewide politics for the Ogden newspapers. He can be contacted at [email protected]