HARRISBURG – Responding to concerns about the Wolf Administration’s handling of some aspects of the COVID-19 crisis, Senators Ryan P. Aument (R-36) and John Yudichak (I-14) outlined a plan today that would bring more collaboration and transparency to the process of responding to emergencies.
The Senators will introduce legislation in the near future that would make necessary reforms to laws governing emergency declarations. The bill would:
- Automatically create a special bipartisan task force to work with the governor when an emergency is declared.
- Require any renewal of an emergency declaration to be approved by the General Assembly.
- Require timely notification to the General Assembly of any actions the Administration intends to take during the declared emergency.
Under the bill, a special Disaster and Recovery Task Force would be created during any emergency declaration to work with representatives of industries and populations impacted by the emergency to determine the best way to handle problems that arise.
“One of the biggest failures of the COVID-19 response was the Governor’s refusal to work with anyone but those within his administration, creating an echo chamber of ideas and a lack of transparency,” Aument said. “The task force will be able to collaborate in a way that will challenge assumptions about the best way to handle problems and take actions that can earn the confidence of the people of Pennsylvania.”
The bill would also limit the length of any emergency declaration to 30 days. The General Assembly would have the option to extend the declaration in collaboration with the governor if an extension is warranted.
Further, the legislation would require the governor to notify the General Assembly of any actions that the Administration plans to take at least 12 hours prior to the issuance of the orders. This provision would help ensure greater collaboration and information sharing at a time when Pennsylvanians need this guidance most.
“In many cases, lawmakers learned of major orders after the media had already reported the story. This left many legislators scrambling to find answers for constituents who contacted them for guidance,” Aument said. “This type of confusion is easily avoidable.”
“Our government excels when we listen to all voices at the table, and when we are all able to come together to advance what is in the best interest for the citizens of our great Commonwealth,” said Yudichak. “We have learned many lessons during the COVID-19 crisis, and through these good government reforms that we are proposing, we can ensure that there will be a transparent and collaborative process to follow for all future emergencies.”
The Senators noted that the governor’s insulated approach to the COVID-19 pandemic led to numerous problems – including an inconsistent and unclear business waiver process, an inability to communicate pertinent information to constituents, and a lack of confidence and trust from the public – that all could have been resolved with the cooperation of lawmakers.
“Had Governor Wolf consulted with the legislature, or business groups, or anyone outside his administration, perhaps the issues that arose from his orders could have been avoided,” the Senators said. “Pennsylvanians would benefit from a consistent and common sense requirement for collaboration. There are always lessons to be learned. In this situation, those lessons can guide us to better handle future emergencies.”
CONTACT: Ryan Boop (717) 787-4420 (Senator Aument)
Mark Grochocki (570)740-2434 (Senator Yudichak)