Home Politics Battle continues over governor’s disaster declaration power

Battle continues over governor’s disaster declaration power

The House Majority Leader introduced a resolution to terminate portions of Gov. Tom Wolf’s March 6, 2020 emergency disaster declaration

Source: Office of Gov. Tom Wolf
Source: Office of Gov. Tom Wolf

Following Gov. Tom Wolf’s recent renewal of the Proclamation of Disaster Emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff introduced a concurrent resolution to terminate portions of Wolf’s March 6, 2020 emergency disaster declaration.

“Last week, Pennsylvania voters issued a new mandate to their government that they want more checks and balances in the management of emergency disaster periods,” Benninghoff said. “This resolution is a first step in bringing action to the will of the voters by terminating the most devastating portions of Gov. Wolf’s initial emergency disaster declaration.”

House Resolution 106 would terminate the administration’s ability to use the COVID-19 emergency disaster declaration to engage in no-bid, single-source contracting; reestablish work search requirements currently waived by the Department of Labor and Industry; and end the ability of the governor to use the emergency disaster declaration to mandate occupancy limits, business closures and stay-at-home orders.

The introduction of the concurrent resolution follows adoption of two constitutional amendments approved by Pennsylvania voters last week. One of those amendments causes an emergency disaster declaration issued by a governor to expire within 21 days unless renewed in whole or in part by the General Assembly.

According to the concurrent resolution, the remainder of the March 6, 2020, COVID-19-related emergency disaster declaration could be extended until Oct. 1, 2021, as the General Assembly continues reviewing the various administration actions taken during the last 15 months.

“Over the coming weeks and months, the General Assembly will continue its due diligence over the administration’s management of the COVID-19 emergency disaster declaration, including how to deal with a regulatory framework significantly altered by use of the COVID-19 emergency disaster declaration’s authority,” said Benninghoff. “Pennsylvania voters wanted more responsible and more reasonable emergency management, and we will continue to provide that while ensuring critical services and funding remain intact.”

House Resolution 106 was scheduled to be considered by the House State Government Committee Tuesday morning.

In response, Wolf issued the following statement:

“Last week, the administration outlined the powers and actions taken under the disaster declaration and vowed to work with the General Assembly as they acquired this new power under the constitution. The administration outlined the election certification process and provided the information under the disaster declaration.

“First, the legislature is taking this prior to the certification of the election. Without this certification, the constitution has not actually been amended.

“Second, the legislature is attempting to terminate specific actions that are not set forth in the disaster proclamation including occupancy limits, stay at home orders and business closures. Those actions were taken subsequent to the disaster declaration. The constitutional amendment granted them authority to terminate or extend in whole or in part the disaster declaration, and the specific orders are separate and apart from the proclamation.

“Third, after a productive meeting with the legislature last week, the administration learned of their actions from a press release.

“The voters gave the legislature tremendous responsibility. The administration stands ready to work with the legislature, but this is a discouraging development.”

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