Pennsylvania Voters Opt to Strip Gov. Wolf of Emergency Powers

Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf speaks with members of the media and after receiving the Service Employees International Union's endorsement Friday, June 6, 2014, in Philadelphia. Wolf is challenging Republican incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett in Nov. 4th general election. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
AP/Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania voters opted to strip Gov. Tom Wolf (D) of his emergency powers, according to unofficial results of the state’s May 18 municipal primary elections, several outlets reported on Wednesday.

Pennsylvania voters faced a handful of statewide questions on their ballot for the municipal primary elections, which were held May 18. Two of the questions related directly to the governor’s emergency powers. One asked if the state constitution should 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.

The other question asked voters if the state constitution should be amended to make disaster emergency declarations automatically expire after three weeks, or 21 days, “regardless of the severity of the emergency, unless the General Assembly takes action to extend the disaster emergency.”

Several media outlets, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, reported that Pennsylvania voters approved the two ballot measures, describing it as a “victory for Republican lawmakers in what was widely seen as a referendum on the Wolf administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

According to the Morning Call, Wednesday morning figures showed voters leaning toward altering the governor’s emergency powers “with margins of nearly 54% to 46% on both questions”:

About 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, unofficial, incomplete returns on the state website had voting on the first question — the one concerning ending or extending a declaration — at 1,031,128 voting “yes” and 892,093 voting “no,” or a margin of 53.61% to 46.39%.

The voting on the other question was 1,039,897 yes votes to 900,920 no votes, a margin of 53.58% to 46.42%.

According to Philadelphia 10, the questions continued to lead with nearly 54 percent of the vote and 73 percent of precincts reporting:

“Last night, Pennsylvanians voted to reject Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf’s overreach of executive powers after his failed COVID response – a clear sign of accountability coming in 2022,” Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said:

Many Pennsylvanians were frustrated by Wolf’s reluctance to reopen the state during the pandemic last year, earning him the nickname “Commie Tommy Tom Wolf.” One resident told Breitbart News at the time that Wolf was “trying to turn Pennsylvania into his own makeshift Stalinist Russia.”

Wolf has since reacted to the preliminary results via a spokesman, who said the governor’s administration will “soon connect with the general assembly regarding the extension”:

The current declaration expires at midnight tomorrow. The disaster declaration allows for the suspension of regulations for medical professionals, gives the commonwealth the ability to access federal funding, and assists with the activation and payment of the National Guard, among other important operations. The vote on the disaster declaration constitutional amendments does not impact the past or current mitigation orders.

“We hope that the General Assembly will recognize the importance of the disaster declaration for first responders and Pennsylvanians who rely on federal funding during times of emergency,” the spokesperson added.

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