Ward: Senate Approves Constitutional Amendment Requiring a Legislative Vote on Extended Disaster Declarations

Harrisburg – A proposed constitutional amendment sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-39) to limit the length of future emergency disaster declarations unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly moved one step closer to a voter referendum with today’s passage by the state Senate.

Under current law, a governor’s emergency declaration can last up to 90 days and be renewed by the governor indefinitely. Under Senate Bill 2, 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.

In addition to Senator Ward, the measure is sponsored by Senator Scott Martin (R-13) and Senator John DiSanto (R-15).

“Under Governor Wolf’s current declaration of emergency for COVID-19, we are witnessing what consolidated power looks like,” said Ward.  “Inconsistent vaccine rollouts, businesses that have been shuttered, nursing home residents who have suffered under the Department of Health, and hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers who continue to struggle to obtain unemployment benefits,” she continued.  “Every step of the way, the Pennsylvania Legislature has attempted to pass bills to assist these affected groups, and the Governor has responded with a veto.” 

Senate Bill 2 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.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. As a constitutional amendment, the legislation must be approved by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions before being put on the ballot for voters to decide. The measure was approved by the General Assembly in the previous legislative session.

“Our founding Fathers designed a republic with three co-equal branches of government, each providing checks and balances on the other.  The members of the General Assembly are the closest to the constituents they represent.  People deserve to have their voices heard, especially in an extended emergency,” continued Ward.  “This issue is bigger than one person.  Neither this governor, nor future governors, should ever wield this type of power again.  This proposed amendment puts the power back in the hands of the people of Pennsylvania to vote on,” she ended.

CONTACT: Caitrin Wilson cwilson@pasen.gov