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GOP lawmakers send governor bill to limit COVID-19 lawsuits
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GOP lawmakers send governor bill to limit COVID-19 lawsuits

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Pennsylvania Capitol

An America flag flies at the Pennsylvania Capitol building in Harrisburg.

HARRISBURG — A divided state House on Friday passed a Republican-backed proposal to make it harder to sue schools, health care providers and others over COVID-19 claims.

The 104 to 98 vote sent the bill to the desk of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. All House Democrats were opposed, joined by five moderate Republicans.

It would make it more difficult to establish liability when someone is exposed to the coronavirus during a governor-declared disaster emergency.

Supporters said entities providing services to the public during the pandemic should not also face the prospect of expensive or even ruinous litigation, while opponents said the bill would remove a valuable protection for the public.

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“I am hopeful that the governor is listening and he will exercise his duty and veto this bill, because I cannot make that trip home with a clear conscience knowing that somebody who has been negligent and participant in an incubator of disease and death gets off scot-free," said Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver.

Wolf's office declined immediate comment.

Businesses and institutions have been caring for people and making decisions during a difficult time, said Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre.

“We should not reinjure them, especially financially, by some lawsuit that could put them out of business,” Benninghoff said.

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry welcomed the vote, calling the legislation's provisions targeted, temporary and narrow in scope.

The Senate vote on Thursday was also divided, with only one Democrat supporting the bill.

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