HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) — Pennsylvania voters approved two constitutional amendments on Tuesday that could shift power from the governor to the legislature when it comes to natural disasters and emergencies like the current pandemic.
Every 90 days for over a year, Gov. Wolf has issued an emergency declaration giving his administration the power to shut down certain operations and impose mask-wearing. Now the governor cannot act alone.READ MORE: 1st Ballot Test Of Governor’s Pandemic Powers Starts In Pennsylvania
“Both amendments simply give the legislature a voice in extending a disaster declaration or emergency declaration by the governor,” former Pennsylvania Rep. Stephen Bloom told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.
Bloom, a lawyer, is now with the Commonwealth Foundation, which supported these amendments.
“The one reduces the time that an emergency declaration can be in effect from 90 days to 21 days unless the legislature approves a further extension. The other gives the legislature the ability to essentially, by majority vote, end an emergency declaration at any time.”
The current coronavirus declaration expires at midnight on Thursday, but Bloom says the governor is free to extend it because the amendments won’t take effect until the vote is certified by the state in the next three weeks.READ MORE: Some Officials Urge Pennsylvanians To ‘Vote No’ On Disaster Declaration Constitutional Amendments On The Ballot
On Wednesday, the governor’s office issued this statement:
“The administration will soon connect with the General Assembly regarding the extension. The disaster declaration allows for the suspension of regulations for medical professionals, gives the commonwealth the ability to access federal funding, and assists with the activation and payment of the National Guard, among other important operations.
“The vote on the disaster declaration constitutional amendments does not impact the past or current mitigation orders. We hope that the General Assembly will recognize the importance of the disaster declaration for first responders and Pennsylvanians who rely on federal funding during times of emergency.”
Given the success of current mitigation efforts, Bloom does not think the legislature is likely to do much.
“If the direction of the pandemic continues to be a positive one where things are getting better, I don’t think the legislature is going to have to impose that much oversight over Governor Wolf with what he does with this particular pandemic,” says Bloom.MORE NEWS: Pennsylvania Voters To Weigh In On Government Pandemic Power Struggle
With the partisanship in Harrisburg, that may be optimistic.