Senate, House Republican Leaders Decry Wolf’s Prejudicial Language in Ballot Questions

(HARRISBURG) – Calling the questions politically charged and prejudicial, Senate and House Republican leaders decried the Wolf Administration’s ballot language asking voters if the state constitution should be amended to limit future emergency declarations to 21 days unless extensions are approved by the General Assembly.

Senate and House Republican leaders held a news conference and addressed the objectionable language, emphasizing the work that will need to be done to ensure voters will say “yes” at the ballot box in May.

PA Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-34)

“The ballot language for consideration by the voters is written in a way that shows the Wolf Administration wants these measures to fail. Contrary to how the questions read, the General Assembly will not be able to act unilaterally. We will have to work in concert with the Executive Branch in order for policies to be passed. It also alleges checks and balances will be lost. Let me be clear – there are no checks and balances right now. We have totalitarian power ruling many aspects of our lives including the openings of employers and our schools.

“The questions are written in a way to scare voters away. But I trust the voters of Pennsylvania. We are going to take the questions to them and give them the background. We are going to work to educate our constituents on why – no matter how it is worded – this referendum needs to pass. We will provide voters with the information to make an intelligent decision. I’m confident that once the people learn the real initiative behind the amendment they will vote ‘yes’ in order to restore checks and balances back to Pennsylvania.” 

House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-100)

“Every Pennsylvanian is already questioning the competency and credibility of the Department of State when it comes to processing constitutional amendments. This question as written by the Department is an attempt to tip the scales against the people’s right to control their own Constitution and government.

“This is yet another disgraceful action by a department that needs to take very deliberate steps to earn back the public’s trust. 

“However, the department is not accounting for the will of the people. I am confident Pennsylvanians will see this maneuver for what it is, and strongly support a move to limit the power of the executive and restore the voices of the people in times of emergencies.” 

Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-39)

“The Department of State uses words that were not part of our legislative language and is clearly slanted in a way to encourage voters to vote against this amendment. The people need a voice. When you look at what has happened this past year with restaurants and other employers being closed while others have been allowed to remain open, it clearly shows that the people through their General Assembly need to have a seat at the table.

“If we have learned anything over time, it is that the person who calls the emergency then consolidates power. As it stands, that person is the only one who can end the emergency. There is something wrong with that. This is not a partisan issue and not about Governor Wolf. It’s a people issue. We need to give the people a voice.” 

House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-171)

“Mismanagement. Incompetence. Politics. These three things have permeated the Wolf administration’s handling of Constitutional amendments and even the basic functions of government. This is a Commonwealth of, by, and for the people. Not one person, not one governor. Unfortunately, Gov. Wolf has been, and is continuing to use, the power of his office to prohibit Pennsylvanians from having a fair shot at amending their own Constitution. It is abhorrent. It is shameful. And, frankly, Pennsylvanians deserve better.” 

Ballot questions

Here is a link to the full advertisement as placed in various newspapers throughout the state. The plain language questions are:

Ballot Question #1

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law and increase the power of the General Assembly to unilaterally terminate or extend a disaster emergency declaration—and the powers of Commonwealth agencies to address the disaster regardless of its severity pursuant to that declaration—through passing a concurrent resolution by simple majority, thereby removing the existing check and balance of presenting a resolution to the Governor for approval or disapproval? 

Ballot Question #2

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law so that: a disaster emergency declaration will expire automatically after 21 days, regardless of the severity of the emergency, unless the General Assembly takes action to extend the disaster emergency; the Governor may not declare a new disaster emergency to respond to the dangers facing the Commonwealth unless the General Assembly passes a concurrent resolution; the General Assembly enacts new laws for disaster management? 

Ballot Question #3

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended by adding a new section providing that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of an individual’s race or ethnicity?


Contact:       Jenn Kocher (Senate)
                      Jason Gottesman (House)