Freedom Foundation

Pennsylvania Voters Approve New Limits on Governor’s Emergency Powers

The past 14 months of lockdown measures have hit Pennsylvania and its businesses hard. The Commonwealth has one of the highest unemployment rates of all 50 states and has lost 30 percent of its businesses because of Gov. Tom Wolf’s lockdowns.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennsylvania had over 600,000 hospitality and restaurant workers. Gov. Wolf’s ever-changing dystopian and arbitrary mandates cut that number in half, to only 300,000 workers.

He single-handedly disincentivized people from going out and living their lives with his daily press conferences and capacity limits on indoor/outdoor events and gatherings. Now that the pandemic is subsiding, the goal posts for reopening are being moved further and further back to benefit the special interests that benefit from lockdown culture. A recent bombshell report exposed that Wolf’s chief of staff met with teacher unions to prolong school closures. This crushed working families across the Commonwealth who had to adjust their way of life and, in some cases, had to quit their jobs or got fired because they could not juggle parenting and working from home.

As a parent who has worked from home, I know firsthand the difficulty of navigating those waters without a great support system. Many parents unfortunately just do not have that option available to them, but that never occurred to Gov. Wolf and his team. They wanted to keep our state shut down and our schools and businesses closed, no matter the cost.

Meanwhile, the governor never had to worry about missing a paycheck and ignored Freedom Foundation requests to at least give public-sector employees a brief moratorium on union dues deductions so that money could be pumped into the private sector rather than line union coffers.

Fed up, the people of Pennsylvania spoke up and reached out to their state lawmakers to reign in the governor’s emergency powers.

The governor has the power to declare an emergency and issue proclamations. At present, these orders last 90 days. Rarely have declared emergencies lasted that long Granted, no one saw COVID-19 coming in this way, but the governor refused to work with the General Assembly and listen to his constituents to come up with a practical plan to get people back to work and re-open Pennsylvania. Instead, he simply kept renewing his emergency disaster proclamation.

Due to the tireless efforts of Pennsylvanians demanding the General Assembly stand up to this overreach, there were two constitutional amendments passed in two consecutive legislative sessions (per the state Constitution) to roll back the governor’s emergency powers. As a result, both amendments were placed on the ballot and approved by a majority of Pennsylvania voters in this week’s primary election.

The first amendment will expand the General Assembly’s power over emergency declarations and allows state lawmakers to extend or terminate the governor’s emergency declaration by passing a resolution with a simple majority vote that the governor cannot veto. This passed statewide with 54 percent approval.

The second amendment will reduce the maximum duration of emergency declarations from 90 days to 21. After the 21 days are up, extensions will require legislative approval, which gives more power back to the people’s representatives regarding how emergencies are managed. This also passed statewide with a 54 percent approval.

Live free and breathe again Pennsylvanians, the people have always had the power.