Op-Ed: Disagreements & Collaboration Result in Better Public Policy

Good Morning, I am State Senator Ryan Aument

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a number of critical comments to  my social media posts not because of the content, but because those posting these comments would prefer me to work with Governor Wolf rather than publicly expressing my opposition to his handling of his shutdown.  I, too, would rather work in a bipartisan fashion with the Governor to overcome the challenges that COVID-19 has inflicted upon Pennsylvania. 

That is exactly why, for the last month, I have issued the following public statements in which I repeatedly urged Governor Wolf to work with the General Assembly:

  1. March 30th: I released an op-ed titled: Aument Calls for Greater Collaboration & A Transparent Exit Plan in Coronavirus Fight.
  2. April 7th: I again called on Governor Wolf to work with the General Assembly to establish transparent benchmarks and communicate a plan to the public to protect public health and a data-informed process to roll back economic restrictions in my op-ed titled Pennsylvania Needs a Clear Path Forward,.
  3. April 7th: I released an op-ed titled Aument Advocates for Legislation to Establish an Interbranch COVID-19 Task  Force to coordinate the emergency disaster response across all three branches of Pennsylvania’s government.
  4. April 15th: In response to Governor Wolf’s announcement that he had joined a multi-state council to coordinate COVID-19 response across the region, Senator Aument urged the governor to first work with the General Assembly and coordinate with local leaders to solve local problems in my op-ed titled Collaboration Should Start At Home
  5. April 30th: I circulated a co-sponsorship memo for legislation with the accompanying press release titled: Aument, Yudichak Propose Changes to Governor’s Emergency Declaration Powers to Promote Greater Collaboration, Transparency.

 You can review those public statements on my website at senatoraument.com

Despite the many calls by myself and many other elected officials for Governor Wolf to work with the General Assembly, he has refused.  In fact, he has chosen to share information with legislators at the same time as the media and general public – leaving no time to prepare for questions from constituents, let alone offer any suggestions of how such an order could be improved or express concerns with the unintended consequences of a particular approach as outlined by the governor. 

The reality is the Governor has shown no interest in working with anyone outside of his administration.  This was further evident by the resignation of Chris Hackett from the state’s Workforce Development Board.  In his resignation letter, Hackett criticized Governor Wolf for not seeking input from the board which is the governor’s private sector policy advisors and includes union Leadership, small business owners and public officials and further characterized the Governor as acting in darkness.

It’s for this reason I am sponsoring a bill to require that in future emergencies, a Governor to work with the General Assembly and experts within industries impacted by disasters.  Up to this point, Governor Wolf has simply been uninterested in such a bipartisan approach.

So despite the willingness to work with the Governor to better address the issues created by COVID-19, we’ve been unable to do so. But that doesn’t mean I or any other legislator should give up on trying to influence or force the Governor or his administration to take action that my constituents are begging for.

It is why we have sent letters, passed legislation, and issued public comments.  Without a willing participant in the Governor’s Office, these are the avenues we are forced to take.

But even in my disagreements with the Governor, there has always been a level of respect.  Though there is much I disagree with in his handling of this shutdown, I will always have respect for Mr. Wolf as a person, along with anyone else that occupies that office.

Disagreements, especially those backed by evidence and clearly stated arguments, shouldn’t considered a bad thing.  Every disagreement is an opportunity to reevaluate our assumptions and potentially improve our ideas.

But what I also observed was that most, if not all, of those who attempt to paint me as a legislator playing partisan politics have been Democrats.  And their opposition has not been with the points I have made to justify my positions, but rather because I simply offer a viewpoint in disagreement with the Governor at all.  Some call on me to work with the Governor, completely unaware of my many attempts to do so and the Governor’s refusal to oblige.  These comments are just as partisan as the behavior they claim to dislike.

In order to successfully address issues of this scale, we need to work together.  Not just at the state level – but at the community level, too.  Our neighbors are hurting.  Some are physically hurting, because they or their loved ones have personally contracted COVID-19.  Many others are hurting because of the financial and mental toll the shutdown has caused.  And while both have very legitimate reasons for their opinions about how the state should move forward, the voices who have called for the strictest of restrictions and continuing the shutdown the loudest have been from those who are still collecting some form of income. 

Make no mistake, I will surely disagree with Governor Wolf on certain issues. But disagreeing with ideas doesn’t inherently make someone partisan, and as elected officials charged with serving, protecting, and representing our constituents, we should be willing to have our assumptions challenged.  In fact, I firmly believe the Governor has been moved to make some small changes to his shutdown orders precisely because of the concerns and opposition that have been expressed by constituents and their legislators all across our Commonwealth.  And I will continue to carry those voices to the Governor, whether by introducing legislation, by votes cast, or by public statements.  Indeed, I would submit that I am solemnly obligated to do so on behalf of those I have been elected to represent.

But we should, especially during dark times like this, be understanding of one another.  That doesn’t mean we have to agree. But having compassion, showing empathy, and loving one another during this difficult time must transcend political parties. So please take time to understand those who don’t share your opinions, and love one another as we all confront this challenge together. Thank you and God bless you.



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