General Assembly Approves Senator Ward’s Constitutional Amendment Requiring a Legislative Vote on Extended Disaster Declarations

Harrisburg – The state Senate today approved a proposed constitutional amendment sponsored  by Senator Kim Ward (R-39) that would limit the length of future emergency disaster declarations unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly, moving the measure one step closer to a voter referendum.

Under current law, a governor’s emergency declaration can last up to 90 days and be renewed by the governor indefinitely. Under Senate Bill 1166, 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.

“The way things stand now goes against the grain of our representative republic. Currently, a governor can call a state of emergency where he/she has the unilateral power to override regulations, spend money, and put mandates in place, and can continue to do this without any legislative approval,” said Ward.

“Our Founding Fathers designed a republic with three co-equal branches of government, all designed to provide checks and balances on one another. The need for this legislation has been born out of Governor Wolf’s refusal to work with the General Assembly during the COVID-19 public health emergency,” said Ward.  “This Constitutional Amendment is the only mechanism around the governor’s veto pen and the current liberal PA Supreme Court majority.”

Today’s Senate vote followed Tuesday’s approval by the House of Representatives, which amended the bill and returned it to the Senate. As a constitutional amendment, the legislation must be approved again in the next legislative session before being put on the ballot for voters to decide.

Senate Bill 1166 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.

“In addition to ensuring Pennsylvanians have representation in an emergency declaration, it also proposes that the rights of all Pennsylvanians, regardless of race or ethnicity shall not be infringed upon in our Commonwealth,” Ward said.

CONTACT: Caitrin Wilson