HARRISBURG (KDKA/AP) – Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the GOP-led Legislature headed toward a legal clash Wednesday over the emergency declaration he issued at the beginning of the pandemic, with lawmakers voting to end it and Wolf insisting he holds veto power.
In largely party-line votes, the Legislature approved late Tuesday ending Wolf’s 3-month-old emergency proclamation and restarting businesses and other activities shut down as COVID-19 began tightening its grip on Pennsylvania. Retailers and many other kinds of businesses have since been permitted to reopen, but with restrictions.
Supporters of the resolution — which they asserted would do away with many, if not all, pandemic restrictions — maintained that state law authorizes the Legislature to end the emergency declaration unilaterally. Wolf believes that still requires his support and vowed Wednesday to fight the resolution in court.
Without a disaster declaration, PA loses:
• 300 school meal sites for kids in need
• Utility help for thousands of families
• Its lift on burdensome unemployment compensation eligibility reqs
• Its moratorium on foreclosures and evictions
And more ⤵️ https://t.co/bWg829ztMt
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) June 10, 2020
House leadership also threatened legal action.
“If the governor chooses to openly violate the plain reading of the law, we will examine all legal actions available to us to act in the best interest of the residents of the commonwealth,” House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, said in a news release Wednesday.
“Ending the disaster declaration would not reopen anything,” Gov. Wolf said Wednesday, also pointing out an order signed by Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine wouldn’t be ended. “It just wouldn’t. Anyone who says anything differently is wrong.”
“I’m going to continue to focus on reopening and recovery and managing the crisis at hand to the best of my ability with the goal of not being one of those 19 states that see a spike in new cases,” he says.
Despite the General Assembly passing the concurrent resolution, General Counsel of the Commonwealth Gregory Schwab says the “status quo” is still in place.
“Nothing has changed according to the phased reopening plan. The disaster proclamation remains in effect. Under the law, there is only one way to end it, and if that is when the governor ends it. And as far as I know, he does not intend to end it,” says Schwab.
Republicans argued that Wolf had overstepped his authority, including with a process by which businesses could seek waivers that they said had been too secretive.
#PAHouse Leader Calls on Wolf to Follow the Law
— PA House Republicans (@PAHouseGOP) June 10, 2020
“It has become apparent that for the entire state, these decisions are being made by one man, the governor,” argued Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair. “How can we allow one man to continue to make poor decisions for millions?”
Democrats said the resolution was premature and put people’s health in danger.
“No other state has ended its declaration of emergency,” said Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Lehigh. “There’s a reason why.”
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