Gov. Tom Wolf Has Failed Pennsylvania

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

If people ever did believe, and if lockdowns ever were science-based, by now, no one possessing a normal attention span and a healthy distrust of authority believes the lengthy COVID-19 lockdowns are still about science.

That’s especially true in Pennsylvania where its governor, a Democrat who clearly cares little for civil liberties, and an agenda-driven Health Department head have been arbitrarily calling the shots on a COVID-19 emergency declaration.

Governor Tom Wolf’s 90-day declaration, signed on March 6, 2020, then extended on June 3, was authorized under the Commonwealth’s 1978 emergency management services law, a measure written and passed to suspend the state constitution and give the governor extraordinary, but only temporary powers to deal with crises.

The law also defines the legislature’s essential 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.”

That provision was included to prevent a power-hungry governor from disrupting constitutional order and assuming dictatorial powers by unilaterally declaring and extending “emergencies” indefinitely. Reasonable people understand this.

On June 9, the Pennsylvania General Assembly, including some Democrats in both chambers, concurred on a resolution to terminate the governor’s COVID-19 emergency. Then, in defiance of the same law that authorizes him to declare emergencies, the governor immediately announced his intention to “veto” the bipartisan resolution. Wolf’s spokesperson proclaimed, imperiously, “Only the governor can terminate the disaster emergency.”

Later, insisting that enforcement of the existing order, including business closures, would continue, Wolf announced he would instead “challenge” the legislature’s resolution in court, a tacit admission of the resolution’s legitimacy.

Ironically, if the court were to invalidate the portion of the bill defining the legislature’s role, the remainder, including the governor’s right to declare emergencies, would be legally questioned as well. The inevitable result would be endless legal wrangling and further constitutional disorder.

Governor Wolf’s original emergency order restricted group gatherings, ordered social distancing, and directed citizens to stay at home unless traveling for an essential job or personal need. The governor reserved the right to determine what jobs and businesses were “essential,” but refused to share the “standards” under which possibly more than 2000 otherwise “nonessential” businesses were declared “exempt” from his order, before shutting down the Commonwealth’s Right to Know office. Pennsylvania State Police personnel were ordered to enforce the governor’s impenetrable “decisions.”

Early in the emergency, after the Health Department head’s elderly mother had already been removed from one to prevent her infection, Governor Wolf and his Department of Health directed unprepared long term eldercare facilities to admit or readmit COVID-infected residents, very likely directly causing about two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s COVID-related deaths.

Additionally, there are serious questions about where the governor/his family “hunkered down” after Wolf issued his stay-at-home mandate for Pennsylvania residents.

Then, in June, Governor Wolf destroyed his self-assumed moral authority and the remainder of his already-shredded credibility by violating his own group-gathering restrictions and social distancing rules to participate in a crowded George Floyd demonstration on state property. Except for Wolf’s personal security detail, State Police were side-lined, revealing that the governor’s approach to “emergency” enforcement is as selective as his commitment to “science.”

Meanwhile, three-plus months after Wolf’s shutdown order, roughly two million Pennsylvanians are out of work. Businesses are failing. Tax revenues have cratered. Life-sustaining health services are being neglected. Colleges and universities are retrenching. Some will close permanently.

Wealthy and term-limited, Governor Wolf appears clueless about – or disinterested in – the economic, human and public health damage his closures are wreaking on individuals, families, institutions and businesses, especially small family-owned businesses.

As seriously, Governor Wolf stands in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities 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 within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The Amendment makes no exceptions for gubernatorial vanity, ignorance, indifference or incompetence.

Gov. Wolf’s lousy decisions have already taken lives. His intransigence may take far more.

Tom Wolf has failed Pennsylvania.