Pennsylvanians voted this week in support of an effort to curb the state’s governor executive powers through two ballot questions.
The story: Pennsylvanians approved two proposed constitutional amendments as part of the 2021 primary election in the state to limit the governor’s ability to issue disaster declarations.
In detail: Voters in the state agreed with the proposal to give the General Assembly some control over the governor’s executive power. Specifically, voters said the legislature should have the ability to null disaster declarations issued by the governor with a majority vote.
This means lawmakers can end a disaster declaration at any time, regardless of the governor’s stance.
The second proposal that Pennsylvanians backed is to limit the length of the governor’s disaster declarations. Voters said they should last no longer than 21 days, meaning any such declaration will automatically expire after three weeks. If there is a need for the declaration to be extended, the legislature will have to step in and approve the proposal.
Worth noting: The constitutional amendments would be officially enforced once the primary results are certified. The acting secretary of state, Veronica Degraffenreid, said this won’t happen at least until next month, according to Erie Times-News.
How we got here: The ballot questions came after Republicans took issue with Gov. Tom Wolf’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. They argued that his executive orders infringed on Pennsylvania’s individual rights with mask mandates and other limits, and crippled the economy by closing businesses.
The governor has argued that his emergency declarations are meant to keep Pennsylvanians safe.
The GOP managed to get the constitutional amendment questions on the ballot after they exhausted other avenues, such as passing a resolution to terminate the governor’s emergency declaration, which Wolf vetoed.
They also took the matter to court but the Supreme Court in the state sided with Wolf, ruling last year that the legislature cannot force the governor to nix his own declaration.
Meanwhile, Wolf’s disaster declaration expired on Thursday. Lyndsay Kensinger, Wolf’s Press Secretary, said the administration will talk to the legislature about a possible extension.
“We hope that the General Assembly will recognize the importance of the disaster declaration for first responders and Pennsylvanians who rely on federal funding during times of emergency,” Kensinger said.
Comments: “This decision by the people is not about taking power away from any one branch of government, rather it’s about re-establishing the balance of power between three equal branches of government as guaranteed by the constitution,” Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R) Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R) said a statement.
“This is a victory for the people of Pennsylvania. This was a bipartisan vote because people were tired of the governor’s pandemic policies,” said House Republican spokesman Jason Gottesman.
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