Constitutional Amendment Requiring a Legislative Vote on Extended Disaster Declarations Set to go before Voters

(Harrisburg) – A proposed constitutional amendment to limit the length of future emergency disaster declarations unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly received final legislative approval today and will be put before the voters to decide in the May 18 primary election, said Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-34), who supported the measure.

“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 legislature and the balance of power that has been lost throughout this emergency. Now it goes to the voters to decide how things should proceed.”

Senate Bill 2 was approved by the House of Representatives today, following approval by the Senate on January 26.

Under current law, a governor’s emergency declaration can last up to 90 days and be renewed by the governor indefinitely.

This consolidation of power has led to numerous problems throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including 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.

 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 the resolution ending the declaration to the governor for his consideration.

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.

As a constitutional amendment, the legislation had to be approved by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions before being put on the ballot for voters to decide. The measure was approved by the General Assembly in the previous legislative session.

 

CONTACT: Jenn Kocher