House Acts to Give Pennsylvanians Voice in Emergencies
Bill would give voters option to change declaration procedures, prohibit racial discrimination
HARRISBURG – After months of taking action to carry the voices of Pennsylvanians concerning the governor’s response to COVID-19, today the House voted to give the people of Pennsylvania the opportunity to decide for themselves how they wish to be governed during times of emergency.
Senate Bill 1166 would amend the constitution to limit an emergency declaration by the governor to 21 days, unless otherwise extended in whole or in part by a majority vote of the General Assembly. The legislation would also provide constitutional protections against racial discrimination.
“Time is of the essence to get these two important issues before the people of Pennsylvania,” Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) said. “Amending our state Constitution is not something we should take lightly; however, we believe doing so is necessary. Our communities should decide for themselves how they wish to be governed.”
While current law states emergency declarations can last up to 90 days, a recent court ruling blocked the Legislature’s ability to end emergency declarations without the consent of the governor.
“We believe the power of our Commonwealth truly rests with the people. Pennsylvania is not a dictatorship, and the voters should ultimately decide,” Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said. “We are a co-equal branch of government and have tried at every turn to work with the administration, including asking to join a multi-branch, bipartisan task force to manage this crisis. The governor turned us down, deciding instead to go it alone for months on end.”
The constitutional amendment now advances to the Senate for further consideration. It must pass both chambers of the General Assembly in consecutive sessions before it can be placed on the ballot for voters to consider.