Pennsylvania General Assembly votes to end Governor Wolf's emergency declaration

A legal battle is expected to follow

June 09, 2020 - 10:33 pm

On Tuesday evening, after a long day of debates in Harrisburg, PA's General Assembly passed a resolution which terminates the Governor's emergency declaration.

While the Pennsylvania General Assembly is controlled by Republicans, the vote didn't fall exclusively on party lines.  The resolution passed in the state Senate by a vote of 31-19, meaning two Democrats crossed party lines to back the measure. Following the Senate vote, the House didn't waste any time, both taking up the resolution, and passing it by a vote of 121-81.  

In March, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued an emergency declaration for the Commonwealth as we headed into our fight against COVID-19.  The 90 day emergency declaration was set to expire in early June, but last week, Governor Wolf extended the declaration for an additional 90 day period.  This emergency declaration cleared a path for the Governor and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to roll out their response to the pandemic.

As the months went by, and Pennsylvania remained shut down, many elected officials and residents began publicly questioning the Governor's actions saying they believed Wolf's pandemic response was heavy handed, controlling, and over the top.  With no end in sight, state legislators decided to take action.

There is speculation that Governor Wolf will disapprove (similar to a veto) this resolution, but some say he's unable to challenge today's vote due to the wording of Title 35, Subchapter A, Section 7301, clause C which states:  

(c)  Declaration of disaster emergency.--A disaster emergency shall be declared by executive order or proclamation of the Governor upon finding that a disaster has occurred or that the occurrence or the threat of a disaster is imminent. The state of disaster emergency shall continue until the Governor finds that the threat or danger has passed or the disaster has been dealt with to the extent that emergency conditions no longer exist and terminates the state of disaster emergency by executive order or proclamation, but no state of disaster emergency may continue for longer than 90 days unless renewed by the Governor. The General Assembly by concurrent resolution may terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time. Thereupon, the Governor shall issue an executive order or proclamation ending the state of disaster emergency. All executive orders or proclamations issued under this subsection shall indicate the nature of the disaster, the area or areas threatened and the conditions which have brought the disaster about or which make possible termination of the state of disaster emergency. An executive order or proclamation shall be disseminated promptly by means calculated to bring its contents to the attention of the general public and, unless the circumstances attendant upon the disaster prevent or impede, shall be promptly filed with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the Legislative Reference Bureau for publication under Part II of Title 45 (relating to publication and effectiveness of Commonwealth documents).

Many Pennsylvania Democrats do not share the same Interpretation of Title 35, and fully expect the Wolf Administration to take legal action to keep his emergency declaration order intact.  



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