“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
So begins the unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America. Importantly, the Declaration continues: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
The time has again come for We the People of Penn’s Woods to alter our governmental foundation. Our state’s system of checks and balances has become broken due to the exercise of despotic executive power and a level of judicial activism never authorized in our founding documents.
As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently wrote: our form of government has “become destructive” to the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for the vast majority of Pennsylvania citizens. It is now our right to alter that government.
Fortunately, we do not need to fight a war of liberation against the world’s most powerful empire. A simple trip to the ballot box will right the wrongs of the past year. While our system of checks and balances has failed, our state Constitution has not. It provides an amendment process that under extraordinary circumstances allows We the People to take corrective action.
Such a time is this.
On May 18th two proposed state constitutional amendments, if passed, will restore checks and balances. Taken together the amendments will restore what was law before the state Supreme Court in a display of unfettered judicial activism changed it. The amendments will give our elected state Senators and Representatives a voice in the use of emergency powers. They will prevent any future governor from inflicting upon the people of Pennsylvania the draconian measures implemented by executive fiat over the past year.
Jefferson continued in the Declaration to state a long list of “repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.” The “injuries and usurpations” imposed by Governor Wolf rival those King George visited upon the colonies:
Wielding unchecked power Tom Wolf has deprived millions of Pennsylvanians of their right to earn a living by imposing harsh and scientifically unjustifiable business closure orders. He has instituted policies that have deprived our children and grand-children of their ability to gain a suitable education. He stole our liberty by issuing stay-at-home and work-from-home orders.
He did all of this under a veil of secrecy, at one point closing the state’s office of Open Records and defying legislative subpoenas for information. He acted without consultation with the General Assembly going so far as to veto lawmakers’ repeated efforts to restart our economy and mitigate the damage done by executive orders.
Amending the state Constitution is a difficult and rarely used process – and for good reason. Proposed amendments must pass two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly in exactly the same form. Getting lawmakers to agree once is a hefty task, twice is next to impossible. But so egregious have been Governor Wolf’s actions the legislature did just that.
But there is one more step in the process: the amendments must be approved by voters in a statewide referendum. That vote will come on Tuesday.
And Governor Wolf is using the levers of our own government to stop us from expressing our will. His Department of State has drafted ballot language that makes the amendments appear to be something other than what they are: a necessary restoration of checks and balances. He has deployed various state agencies to push out false or misleading messages about the impact of the amendments.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Tom Wolf is desperately trying to hold onto a level of power that no governor – Republican or Democrat – now, or in the future ought to hold. He has had his say. Now it is our turn. Our forefathers declared independence on that fateful day of July 4, 1776. We can restore our liberty and with a “yes” vote on Tuesday, May 18th.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal and American Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected].)
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