PA Legislature Votes to End Wolf COVID-19 Disaster Declaration

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

 Mass Unemployment Pervades—Wolf Resists Relinquishing Power

June 9, 2020, Harrisburg, Pa. — Today, the Pa. Legislature passed a resolution (HR 836) to end Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 disaster declaration with bi-partisan majorities in both chambers. Legislators pushed the resolution forward after 2 months and 3 weeks of a shutdown defined by strict controls over information and the highest unemployment rate since the great depression.

“There is a continued need for the state government to respond to the health challenges caused by COVID-19,” said Commonwealth Foundation Vice President Nathan Benefield. “But the time for allowing Wolf to keep our local businesses and communities hobbled without input from the community or from their representatives has passed.”

On May 29th, Wolf admitted to not knowing the reasoning behind the data his administration has used to justify shutting down small businesses and the stay-at-home order.

Such nonchalance has not sat well with many as over 60% of small businesses in Pennsylvania are in danger of closing permanently.

“Everyone who begged for our votes, they have let us down,” said a Havertown, Pa., small business owner in a recent Fox 29 Philadelphia news report on the struggles of small business owners during the shutdown.

Wolf renewed the disaster declaration for another 90 days on June 3 without providing data to justify the action. He has also threatened to veto HR 836 despite his powers to do so being a matter of dispute. However, there is little precedence for these events.

Article I of the Pa. Constitution states. “No power of suspending laws shall be exercised unless by the Legislature or by its authority.” By passing this concurrent resolution, the Legislature has clearly rescinded the emergency authority granted to Gov. Wolf to suspend laws and shutter businesses.

“We’ve never had this situation happen before because we’ve never had a governor as interested in keeping unilateral power as Wolf,” continued Benefield.

The evidence that Wolf’s shutdown order has had an excessive negative impact on Pennsylvania’s economy is mounting. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia recently issued a report noting that Pennsylvania’s shutdown was earlier, more expansive, and had fewer exemptions than most other states, resulting in an unemployment spike.

“Workers and our small local businesses are suffering, but Gov. Wolf has refused to make needed changes to his executive actions to relieve the pain,” said Benefield.  “The legislature has acted responsibly by resolving to end Wolf’s grip on unilateral power.”


Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Michael Torres at 850-619-2737 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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