– State Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23), Rep. Garth Everett (R-84) and Rep. Jeff Wheeland (R-83) today applauded passage of a proposed constitutional amendment by the legislature that would limit the length of future emergency disaster declarations made by the governor, unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly.
Under current law, a governor’s emergency declaration can last up to 90 days and be renewed by the governor indefinitely. Under Senate Bill 1166
, the emergency declaration would be limited to 21 days unless the General Assembly approved a longer duration. It also clarifies that the legislature is not required to present the resolution ending the declaration to the governor for his consideration.
“More than four months after Governor Wolf issued his emergency declaration, the residents, business owners and employers across the 23rd Senate District continue to live under his restrictions,” Sen. Yaw said. “As we have seen first-hand over that timeframe, the governor has, on numerous occasions, muted the concerns of the public, as well as their elected representatives. It is clear, the governor should not have the autonomous power to restrict the voices of Pennsylvanians for this length of time. It’s my belief that any extended emergency declaration not only warrants, but necessitates the engagement of the Legislature, which is not presently required under the Pennsylvania Constitution. I am pleased to see this bill move forward.”
“As chairman of the House State Government Committee, I was proud to advocate for this legislation on behalf of my constituents in Lycoming and Union counties and for all Pennsylvanians who have been adversely affected by the governor’s mandates,” said Rep. Everett. “I am grateful to our colleagues in the Senate for their support of giving Pennsylvanians the freedom to decide on this important issue of checks and balances in our state government. It is time for the unelected bureaucrats in Harrisburg and the executive branch to listen to the voices of Pennsylvanians crying out for their voices to be heard, even during emergencies.”
“I was proud to support this legislation in the House State Government Committee, and I thank our colleagues in the Senate for moving it forward,” said Rep. Wheeland. “The governor, no matter which political affiliation they may be, should never be allowed to amass such unchecked power. This legislation is badly needed to restore our system of checks and balances, which serves to ensure a just society and protect the voice of the people in our state government. A constitutional amendment referendum is the key to putting power back into the hands of the people of Pennsylvania.”
Today’s Senate vote followed Tuesday’s approval by the House of Representatives, which amended the bill and returned it to the Senate. As a constitutional amendment, the legislation must be approved again in the next legislative session before being put on the ballot for voters to decide.
Limiting the length of an emergency declaration would ensure greater cooperation between all branches of government during an emergency and restore the system of checks and balances that Pennsylvania’s government was founded upon, the legislators acknowledged.
For four months, Governor Wolf has used the COVID-19 disaster declaration to suspend state statutes, spend taxpayer dollars without legislative approval, and keep millions of Pennsylvanians from earning a living through his business shutdown orders. His refusal to work with the General Assembly makes clear the critical need for this constitutional amendment.
Representative Garth D. Everett
Representative Jeff C. Wheeland
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Alison Haas