HARRISBURG – Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint) today applauded passage of a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the way emergency disaster declarations are made in the Commonwealth, thereby liming the unchecked, unbalanced authority of the governor.
“In school, we’re taught about the importance of maintaining checks and balances within our system of government, ensuring there is a separation of powers among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government,” Causer said. “It appears our governor was absent that day, as he has essentially refused to communicate, let alone consult with, the duly elected members of the General Assembly in his actions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Taking COVID-19 seriously does not mean the governor should have unchecked authority for as long as he wants it. This administration has proven it doesn’t have all the answers – we need only look at the situation in our nursing homes or the pitiful rollout of the vaccine in the Commonwealth thus far,” Causer continued. “We should be talking with each other and working TOGETHER to lead the state toward both physical and economic recovery.”
House Bill 55
proposes to amend the state Constitution by limiting disaster emergency declarations to 21 days, after which the declaration could be extended only by a concurrent resolution adopted by the Legislature. Currently, disaster declarations may be made for up to 90 days and then renewed as many times as the governor desires. In fact, Pennsylvanians are currently living under two disaster emergency declarations – one for the opioid crisis, which has been in place for more than three years, and another for the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been in place more than 10 months.
In order to amend the Constitution, identical proposals must be approved by both the House and Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions. Once that occurs, the proposal is placed on the ballot for consideration by the voters. Today’s vote marks the second time the bill has passed the House. The ballot question could appear as soon as the upcoming May 18 primary.
In addition to the change regarding emergency declarations, the bill also proposes two additional amendments that would appear as separate questions on the ballot. They include prohibiting the denial or abridgement of equality of rights on the basis of race and ethnicity by it to the Declaration of Rights section of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and clarifying that a resolution terminating or extending a disaster emergency declaration need not be presented to the governor for signature.
Representative Martin T. Causer
House Majority Policy Committee Chairman
67th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia A. Hippler