General Assembly Approves Proposed Constitutional Amendment Requiring Legislative Vote on Extended Disaster Declarations

(HARRISBURG) – Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34) said the state Senate today approved a proposed constitutional amendment today that would limit the length of future emergency disaster declarations unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly, moving the measure one step closer to a voter referendum.

“Long-term declarations of emergency warrant the engagement of the General Assembly,” Senator Corman said. “Under the state Constitution, we are supposed to have three co-equal branches of government. This Constitutional amendment is about protecting the institution of the Senate and the balance of power that has been lost throughout this emergency.”

Under current law, a governor’s emergency declaration can last up to 90 days and be renewed by the governor indefinitely. Under Senate Bill 1166, 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 the resolution ending the declaration to the governor for his consideration.

Senate Bill 1166 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.

Today’s Senate vote followed Tuesday’s approval by the House of Representatives, which amended the bill and returned it to the Senate. As a constitutional amendment, the legislation must be approved again in the next legislative session before being put on the ballot for voters to decide.

Limiting the length of an emergency declaration would ensure greater cooperation between all branches of government during an emergency and restore the system of checks and balances that Pennsylvania’s government was founded upon.

For four months, Governor Wolf has used the COVID-19 disaster declaration to suspend state statutes, spend taxpayer dollars without legislative approval, and keep millions of Pennsylvanians from earning a living through his business shutdown orders. His refusal to work with the General Assembly makes clear the critical need for this constitutional amendment.

CONTACT: Jenn Kocher – Jkocher@pasen.gov