December 15, 2017

State rep wants to block Philly's 'absurd' bulletproof glass legislation

Politics Business
Harrisburg Capitol Building Matt Rourke/AP Photo

In this Oct. 7, 2015 photo, people walk past the Pennsylvania Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa.

At least one Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to stop Philadelphia from implementing a law that could force some city businesses to remove bulletproof barriers between workers and customers.

State Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery, said in a memo Tuesday — two days before the bill passed City Council — he plans to introduce legislation allowing workplaces to "implement safeguards against workplace violence – and to prevent municipalities from prohibiting those safeguards."

"No employer wants their employees to be injured or killed as the result of workplace violence, and it’s absurd that any municipality would want to prevent employers from taking steps to protect their employees," Stephens wrote.

City Councilwoman Cindy Bass' proposal passed Thursday by a vote of 14-3, and Mayor Jim Kenney is expected to sign it into law. Bass' highly controversial bill was introduced in an effort to crack down on nuisance stores selling drug paraphernalia and alcohol in violation of city code.

She said many of these businesses claim to sell hot food in order to obtain liquor licenses, but rarely offer meals, instead perpetuating addictive behaviors and acting as "indoor open-air drug markets masquerading as restaurants."

The bill received pushback from many, primarily Asian American store owners, who said plexiglass barriers were paramount to safety, a point echoed in Stephens' proposal.

"Many of these establishments are open late at night and employees have been targeted for crimes, such as armed robbery and sexual assault," Stephens wrote.

Bass' legislation, which only applies to "large establishment" restaurants with seating for 30 or more, was amended before passage. Under the altered bill, the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections would check for violations in so-called "stop-and-go" stores before 2021.

During that three-year period, L&I would come up with a process to "provide for the use or removal" of bulletproof barriers in those businesses.

Stephens said under his proposal, employers would be free to implement "workplace violence prevention policies" and safeguards, including plexiglass barriers, as long as they complied with state and federal law.