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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: September 10, 2021 06:08 PM
From: Senator Scott Martin and Sen. Judy Ward, Sen. Patrick J. Stefano, Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill
To: All Senate members
Subject: Constitutional Amendment: Clarifying Powers of Department Secretaries and Agencies
In the near future, we plan to introduce an amendment to the Constitution of Pennsylvania to ensure that no extraordinary powers afforded to State Government’s Executive Branch Departments or Agencies under a Governor’s declaration of emergency, may be exercised without a Governor’s emergency declaration actively in place.  This shall clarify that no Department Secretary (or no unconfirmed Acting-Secretary for that matter) or agency can issue mandates, guidance and/or directives otherwise confined to circumstances described under Title 35 without an official emergency declaration in effect.
The COVID-19 Emergency Declaration as called by the Governor has officially ended in Pennsylvania. As a result, powers and leeway provided under Title 35 to quickly issue and execute statewide directives and guidance has also ended.  Despite this, members of the Administration have argued that they still can in fact issue emergency mandates, even without the Governor declaring an emergency.  They claim that their emergency powers do not stem from the very statute meant to govern emergencies.
If this sounds like a legally tenuous and overly stretched interpretation of statute and/or a great departure from the will of the citizens of Pennsylvania with their approval of this May’s Constitutional Amendment, it’s because it is.  The Governor of Pennsylvania is empowered to declare an emergency if necessary.  Instead, he has chosen to bypass the checks and balances of the General Assembly; the very checks and balances the citizens of Pennsylvania voted to amend our Constitution with.  
Please consider joining us in co-sponsoring this Constitutional Amendment so that we can make clear that the will of the citizens of Pennsylvania to have accountability and transparency in their emergency declaration process is not bypassed, manipulated or ignored.

Introduced as SB959