Pennsylvania lawmakers moved a resolution Tuesday that would edit the state´s existing disaster declaration to avoid business closures and stay-at-home orders should COVID-19 cases increase again.
As reported by The Record Online, House Resolution 106 advanced out of the State Government Committee on a party-line vote after Democrats criticized the move as premature and shortsighted. Republicans said voters “spoke loud and clear” in the May 18 primary that they wanted the governor’s emergency powers limited.
“Whether or not voters really understood what that meant in detail is in question,” said Minority Chairwoman Margo Davidson, D-Upper Darby. “However, the election happened and unlike some, I respect the results of each and every election, not just the ones that I like.”
The resolution also would end Wolf’s ability to engage in “no-bid, single source contracting,” such as the state did last summer when hiring the now disgraced Insight Global for contact tracing services; reinstate work search requirements ahead of the Department of Labor & Industry’s July 18 timeline; and prohibit the return of capacity limits, set to expire on May 31.
“Last week, Pennsylvania voters issued a new mandate to their government that they want more checks and balances in the management of emergency disaster periods,” said Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, in a statement introducing the resolution published Monday.
Committee Chairman Seth Grove, R-York, said what remains in the declaration will preserve federal funding and ensure “that we are able to continue some of the regulatory suspensions that have occurred,” until the General Assembly approves legislation making some of those policies more permanent. The edited declaration would expire on Oct. 1.
A declaration that makes little sense
Gov. Wolf said in a statement issued Tuesday that the orders pertaining to business closures, stay-at-home mandates and capacity limits were issued separately from the disaster proclamation. Therefore, editing the existing declaration to ban those actions makes little sense.
He also said that, despite a meeting with legislators last week, he first learned of the resolution “through a press release.” Wolf added that “the voters gave the legislature tremendous responsibility.The administration stands ready to work with the legislature, but this is a discouraging development.”
Now, the resolution moves to the full chamber for consideration. According to the constitutional amendments approved by voters during the primary election, the Legislature can terminate a disaster declaration with a concurrent resolution approved by both chambers.