Seduced by a taste of absolute power during the COVID-19 panic, certain susceptible state governors, including Pennsylvania’s, are loath to relinquish it.
Governor Tom Wolf’s March, 2020, 90-day COVID-19 emergency declaration was authorized under Title 35, a 1978 emergency management services law that suspends Pennsylvania’s constitution to give the governor extraordinary, but only temporary powers.
The law also defines the legislature’s role: “The General Assembly by concurrent resolution may terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time. Thereupon, the Governor shall issue an executive order or proclamation ending the state of disaster emergency.”
The latter provision was included to prevent power-hungry governors from violating constitutional order and assuming dictatorial powers by declaring, then unilaterally extending “emergencies” as Wolf has done four times.
Last summer, on a bipartisan vote, Pennsylvania’s General Assembly passed a resolution to lift the governor’s COVID-19 emergency.
In defiance of the same law that authorizes him to declare emergencies, the governor pledged to “veto” the resolution.
Then, insisting that enforcement of his existing order, including business closures, would continue, Wolf announced he would “challenge” the legislature in court, a tacit admission of the resolution’s legitimacy.
Pennsylvania’s highly-politicized, Democrat-controlled Supreme Court upheld Wolf, so, in response, the legislature followed constitutionally-mandated protocols to let voters rein in the governor by amending the state constitution to return a measure of control to the elected officeholders serving closest to Pennsylvania’s citizens.
Similar efforts are being made in states with Republican (Idaho, New Hampshire, Ohio, Indiana, Arkansas) and Democrat (New York, Michigan, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina) governors who unilaterally imposed and prolonged oppressive COVID restrictions, some challenged by legislatures their own parties control. California’s faces recall.
Pennsylvania’s legislature has authorized ballot initiatives on state constitutional amendments that, while still permitting governors to issue emergency decrees, give the General Assembly the right to review, extend and/or lift them.
May 18 primary election ballots will feature three questions to amend Pennsylvania’s constitution. Two, which the Wolf Administration intentionally worded to confuse voters and encourage votes against, involve changes to emergency decree procedures.
People should clearly understand those two before voting.
For more than a year, Governor Wolf has stubbornly resisted revealing the “science” and “data” he only alleges guided his “emergency” decrees. Now, he’s hiding data on wasted vaccines.
The amendments will force the transparency to which Pennsylvanians are entitled, and restore checks and balances to Pennsylvania’s emergency declaration process.
A majority of YES votes on the first question would permit Pennsylvania’s General Assembly to lift gubernatorial emergencies, a power afforded to it by the Title 35 language overruled by Wolf and court Democrats.
A YES majority on the second question would limit future gubernatorial emergency declarations to twenty-one days unless extended by the General Assembly. The amendment would prohibit a governor, Republican or Democrat, from assuming unilateral, absolute power for indefinite periods, as Governor Wolf has exploited COVID-19 at the cost of civil liberties, education, businesses, jobs, lives and public health issues other than the virus.
Desperate to keep absolute power, Wolf/administration officials have spread propaganda designed to stoke public fear that, if the amendments pass, and Wolf’s COVID-19 emergency is lifted, Pennsylvania will lose federal funds for low-income food assistance benefits.
Wealthy and term-limited, Governor Wolf appears clueless about – or disinterested in – the economic, human and public health damage his closures, mandates and restrictions have already inflicted on individuals, families, institutions and businesses, especially small family-owned businesses, while failing to stop or even slow the spread of the virus.
In fact, states with shorter, fewer, less-strict mandates than Pennsylvania – or none – have had better COVID-19 results.
Moreover, Governor Wolf stands in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First (“the right of people peaceably to assemble”) and Fourteenth Amendments: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges…of citizens of the United States; nor…deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person…the equal protection of the laws.”
America’s Constitution allows no exceptions for gubernatorial vanity, ignorance, indifference or incompetence.
Mr. Wolf’s lousy decisions have already taken thousands of lives and livelihoods. Without checks and balances, his totalitarian intransigence will take more.
Arrogant, condescending, autocratic, but ultimately inept, Tom Wolf has failed Pennsylvania.
Nullify petty tyranny. On May 18, vote YES on all three constitutional amendments.