PA Republicans trying to change the state constitution to limit governor’s emergency powers

Written by on July 15, 2020

PA Republicans trying to change the state constitution to limit governor’s emergency powers 

The state Supreme Court earlier this month upheld the governor’s disaster emergency declaration, saying the legislature can’t terminate the declaration on its own.

By Ed Mahon, PA Post

July 15, 2020

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a news conference outside the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency in Harrisburg, Pa., on July 14, 2020. Photo | Ed Mahon / PA Post

Republicans who control the General Assembly have clashed for months with Democratic Governor Tom Wolf over his management of the coronavirus epidemic and the extent of his emergency powers.

Now, PA Post’s Ed Mahon reports, Republicans are trying a new and more complicated approach: Changing the state constitution. 

Republican State Representative Cris Dush of Jefferson County says the governor has too much power.

“The governor is capable of and has been a dictator by disaster declaration.”

But Wolf’s powers have remained secure. He won multiple legal victories in court. And Republicans have been unable to pick up enough Democratic votes to override his vetoes.

But the governor does not have the power to veto constitutional amendments. They must pass in two consecutive legislation sessions, and then go before voters who have the final say. 

The earliest these constitutional amendments could appear on the ballot would be 2021. 

The constitutional amendments passed out of the House with a 115 to 86 vote and now move to the full Senate. Under the proposal, a disaster declaration could only last 21 days unless the legislature extends it. 

Currently, they can last 90 days and a governor can renew them without approval from the General Assembly.

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