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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: May 13, 2020 05:07 PM
From: Senator Kim L. Ward and Sen. John DiSanto, Sen. Thomas H. Killion, Sen. Scott Martin
To: All Senate members
Subject: Constitutional Amendment Requiring Legislative Approval of Emergency Disaster Proclamations Beyond 30 Days
We are introducing legislation for a Constitutional amendment that if approved by Pennsylvania voters, will provide for an equal distribution of power among our three branches of government over the duration of emergency disaster declarations.

The current emergency disaster proclamation issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has brought into clear light how our current statutes have given the Governor complete power and control over the many facets of the lives of Pennsylvanians, including their ability to provide for their families and access to loved ones.  While the majority of the General Assembly has continually voted to minimize the harmful impacts the Governor’s closure and stay-at-home orders have caused for their constituents while preserving public health and safety, the Governor has repeatedly vetoed the bills and maintained unilateral power over the lives of Pennsylvanians for more than two months now, without any clear end in sight.   The General Assembly could vote today under current law to end the emergency disaster declaration but the Governor could veto that as well or reinstate it the very next day.  This imbalance has made the Governor heedless of the will of the General Assembly and lawmakers essentially powerless in legislating on the emergency disaster proclamation and executive orders. 
The Constitutional amendment we are proposing will enable Pennsylvanians to decide if they want to ultimately have a say through their elected state lawmakers in how long an emergency disaster proclamation should last.  Specifically, the amendment to our Constitution will limit any emergency disaster proclamation issued by the Governor to 30 days unless approved for a longer duration by the General Assembly.   
Through this amendment, the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives will have a say on behalf of their constituents as to whether or not the emergency situation warrants the same level of response taken by a governor for any further period of time.  If a governor wants to extend the length of the emergency proclamation, he or she will have to make a case to the General Assembly by engaging in a productive dialog with lawmakers – something that has been almost absent during the COVID-19 emergency. 

This amendment will ensure equality among our three branches of government in Pennsylvania as provided for in our Constitution, including during times of emergency declarations.

Introduced as SB1166