Op-Ed: Legislative Action to Curtail King Wolf’s Unilateral Decision-Making

As evidenced by his newest Executive Order, the governor continues to operate unilaterally in his decision-making, rather than engaging and working with the legislature.  In turn, I continue to hear from people that the legislature isn’t doing enough, or people are asking what more we can do.

Quite frankly, short of impeaching the governor, which must be initiated in the House of Representatives – and an impeachment resolution has been introduced (HR 915) – we are doing what is in our powers as the legislature, the body that makes the laws within a government that is supposed to be comprised of three co-equal branches.  Governor Wolf, however, has completely disregarded that fundamental, constitutionally established functionality of our government, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has become a rubberstamp for the Governor’s edicts.

In addition to his complete shutdown of businesses and our economy, his botched business waiver process, his refusal to comply with a subpoena to release documents regarding that waiver process – resulting in taxpayers footing the bill for a court case to force him to comply, and his many other edicts issued over the last four months, Governor Wolf has vetoed 9 pieces of legislation so far in 2020, with 8 of them occurring during his COVID-19 shutdown.

These vetoes included bills passed by the House and Senate that provided for: counties to establish plans for reopening businesses; waivers for specific industries such as real estate and vehicle sales and businesses such as lawn and garden stores, salons and barber shops, and animal groomers; a COVID-19 Cost and Recovery Task Force; the Governor to inform the legislature and the general public of all the laws and regulations he has suspended or waived under his emergency declaration; and requiring the Governor to establish a mitigation plan that used CDC guidelines and the essential industries list issued by the US Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).  All of it vetoed by King Thomas Westerman Wolf I.

As his supporters continue to say that all I do is rail against the Governor, I remind them that for four months, I have been working to serve the people of the 31st District who have called my office upset because they had to close the doors of their business with no notice; schools and churches were forced to close their doors; they had no child care for their children, but they still had to work to put food on the table; or they applied for unemployment weeks ago, but the system is broken and after four months and over 3 million claims the Governor still can’t get his Department of Labor & Industry to resolve the problems.

I have stood with the people of Pennsylvania who want their freedom maintained and are disheartened when it is their own government, specifically, their governor, who is taking it away from them.  I have participated in press conferences and rallies to support local businesses and workers that want their livelihoods back, while being criticized for doing so during the shutdown. Yet the governor violated his own orders but was praised by his supporters when he marched with hundreds of people in a protest against police officers. I sent a letter to President Trump seeking the involvement of US Attorney General and US Attorneys for Pennsylvania to address Wolf’s trampling of Pennsylvanians’ constitutional rights.

People are fed up with not having a voice in Harrisburg because the Governor is not listening to anyone, including the elected members of the legislature who are there to represent the people in our republic.

And that is why yesterday, the Senate gave final approval to Senate Bill 1166, which contains two constitutional amendments regarding disaster emergency declarations. First, it provides authority to a governor to issue an emergency declaration, but it requires legislative approval to extend it beyond 21 days.  Second, since HR 836 was struck down by the PA Supreme Court because it ruled that our Constitution requires concurrent resolutions to go before the Governor, SB 1166 calls for changing that language in the Constitution to exclude concurrent resolutions that extend or terminate a governor’s emergency declaration. Is it a coincidence that his new order came the same day?

Constitutional amendments must be approved exactly as written in two consecutive legislative sessions. Since this was the first passage, it will have to be voted on again in the 2021-2022 session. At that point, it will be put on the ballot for voters to choose whether or not they support the constitutional amendments. It is a delayed process to finally give Pennsylvanians a voice in the matter.  It does not address the current dilemma, of course, but we will continue to do what is within our powers in the legislature and call on the governor to respect the Constitutional balance of powers granted to both him and the General Assembly. 

And I will keep fighting for the people of the 31st District and all of Pennsylvania, who do not want to see the Commonwealth continue down this dark path of tyrannical control of our lives, livelihoods, and our economy. Up to this point, the Governor has had no interest in working with the General Assembly, and now more than ever he needs to hear from you, the people of this grand Commonwealth.

Senator Mike Regan represents Pennsylvania’s 31st Senatorial District covering parts of Cumberland and York Counties.

 

CONTACT: Bruce McLanahan, bmclanahan@pasen.gov