Senators Introduce Constitutional Amendment Requiring Legislative Approval of Emergency Disaster Proclamations beyond 30 Days

HARRISBURG – A group of Republican state senators are introducing legislation for a constitutional amendment that will provide equal distribution of power among the three branches of government during emergency disaster declarations.

Under the amendment proposed by Senator Kim Ward (R-39), Senator John DiSanto (R-15), Senator Tom Killion (R-9) and Senator Scott Martin (R-13), no emergency disaster proclamation issued by the governor shall last more than 30 days unless extended with legislative approval by the General Assembly.

“Our state Constitution provides for three equal branches of government,” Senator Ward said. “By placing this amendment on the ballot, and receiving the approval of Pennsylvania citizens, we will ensure that representation exists even during an extended state emergency. This amendment will give power back to the people who elect us to represent them.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that this governor assumes he has complete power over the lives of Pennsylvanians, according to the legislators. The imbalance that has developed during this emergency disaster declaration has resulted in a single branch of government having total control of our Commonwealth.

“The General Assembly is a co-equal branch of government, its members elected by the citizens of the Commonwealth. This proposed amendment to our Constitution provides a necessary check on the Governor’s emergency powers,” said Senator Killion.

“We have learned through this public health pandemic that a governor can wield broad powers and act unilaterally with no input from the General Assembly, undermining our representative government and threatening individual rights,” Senator DiSanto said. “This constitutional amendment is essential to maintain transparency and accountability in government when we need it most.”

“We have seen an unprecedented set of circumstances during this pandemic, and the stress on the system has exposed serious flaws in the laws pertaining to emergency powers of the Governor,” Senator Martin said. “Our communities are reeling from the devastating consequences of giving a single individual too much power over an extended period of time. No matter which party controls the Governor’s Office, the other branches of government should have a strong role to play during an emergency. No one branch of government should be ignored during a crisis.” 

The lawmakers noted that the proposed amendment is vital to ensure equality within the three branches of government, especially in times of emergency. The bill would also give voters the final say, since they will decide whether to amend the Constitution.

To amend the Pennsylvania Constitution, the measure must be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions and approved by voters through a ballot referendum.

CONTACTS: Sen. Ward:

                        Sen. Killion:

                        Sen. Martin:

                        Sen. DiSanto:

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