Senators Martin, Phillips-Hill, Stefano and Ward Introduce Constitutional Amendment to Limit Executive Overreach

HARRISBURG – Senator Scott Martin (R-13), along with Senators Kristen Phillips-Hill (R-28), Pat Stefano (R-32) and Judy Ward (R-30) recently introduced a constitutional amendment designed to limit overreach from the executive branch after emergency declarations expire.

Senate Bill 959 would clarify that no department secretary or agency under the Governor’s jurisdiction can issue public mandates, guidance or directives, unless clearly prescribed and authorized in current law, without an official emergency declaration order in effect.

On June 10, the General Assembly approved a concurrent resolution ending the COVID-19 disaster declaration and terminating the leeway the Governor and his administration cited under Title 35 to quickly execute statewide directives during an emergency response.

This action came after a majority of Pennsylvanians voted to limit the governor’s emergency authority and restore the balance of power in state government. Still, instead of respecting the will of the people, Gov. Wolf and his administration – including unconfirmed acting secretaries – relied on a decades-old law and contrived constitutional interpretations to issue a statewide school mask mandate weeks after many districts adopted optional policies instead.

“If this sounds like a legally tenuous and overly stretched interpretation of statute and a great departure from the will of the citizens of Pennsylvania, it’s because it is,” Sen. Martin said. “This constitutional amendment will ensure that no elected or appointed official can undermine the checks and balances that are so fundamental to our democracy.”

“The people of Pennsylvania made it clear that a collaborative government is their preferred government,” said Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, who is a co-prime sponsor of the bill. “The governor and his administration continue to ignore the will of the people with no emergency declaration in place. This proposed constitutional amendment only reiterates what Pennsylvanians told us this past May when they voted to limit the length of and executive powers provided by an emergency declaration.”

“Our government was never designed to be controlled by one person and the people that person appoints independent of the will of the people. Because of the pandemic, we experienced the grave consequences that come of it,” Sen. Pat Stefano (R-32) said. “This bill is truly about protecting Pennsylvania’s citizens and employers.”

“The voice of the people of Pennsylvania have been very clear. They want to restore checks and balances to government, and do not want one branch of government having an inappropriate level of power and authority over their day-to-day lives,“ Sen. Judy Ward (R-30) said. “The actions of the current administration have demonstrated a disregard for the will of the citizens of this Commonwealth, and that must come to an end.”


CONTACT: Terry Trego, 717-787-6535

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