Senate Approves Constitutional Amendment Requiring a Legislative Vote on Extended Disaster Declarations

(HARRISBURG) – The Pennsylvania Senate today approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit the length of future emergency disaster declarations unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly, moving the proposal one step closer to a voter referendum.

“This proposal restores the decision-making power to its rightful place – with the people,” said Aument. “With this vote, we are allowing our constituents to directly weigh in on this issue at the ballot box.”

Under current law, a governor’s emergency declaration can last up to 90 days and be renewed by the governor indefinitely. Under Senate Bill 2, the emergency declaration would be limited to 21 days unless the General Assembly approved a longer duration. It also clarifies that the legislature is not required to present a resolution ending the declaration to the governor for his consideration.

“With this amendment, we are not saying that the governor can’t act – we are simply saying that he can no longer act alone without justifying his actions before the people’s representatives in the General Assembly,” said Aument.

Many of the problems that occurred during the response to COVID-19 were due to the governor’s exercise of unilateral authority. These problems included flawed guidance that negatively impacted long-term care settings, delayed Unemployment Compensation payments to displaced workers, and individual businesses and entire industries being shuttered longer than necessary.

“I have repeatedly expressed my disappointment with the lack of transparency and collaboration from the Governor and his Administration,” said Aument. “The unilateral approach that the Wolf administration has chosen to combat the coronavirus has proven time and time again to be arbitrary, confusing, and unsupported by data. This has resulted in many avoidable missteps and unintended consequences that have unfairly disadvantaged hardworking Pennsylvanians.” 

Senate Bill 2 also provides for a constitutional amendment prohibiting the denial of equal rights based on race or ethnicity, bringing the Pennsylvania Constitution in line with the U.S. Constitution.

“I was pleased to support such a significant and essential amendment to our Constitution,” said Aument. “While there is still much work to do in regard to discrimination in this country, this change is both welcome and long overdue.”

Senate Bill 2 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. As a constitutional amendment, the legislation must be approved by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions before being put on the ballot for voters to decide. This measure was approved by the General Assembly in the previous legislative session, along with a number of other proposals to rein in the governor’s emergency powers.

CONTACT:  Ryan Boop (717) 787-4420

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