Harrisburg – The Senate State Government Committee approved a constitutional amendment today designed to limit the use of emergency powers by the executive branch outside of emergency declarations, Sen. Judy Ward (R-30) said.
“This amendment is vital to ensure the checks and balances that protect the liberty of all Pennsylvanians,” said Ward. “Covid was a wake-up call for many of us. Rules about how businesses can operate or whether we can gather with loved ones should not be made unilaterally by unelected members of the executive branch. A democracy cannot survive when department secretaries and executive officers can govern by edict and go around the people’s elected representatives.”
Ward joined Sens. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28), Pat Stefano (R-32) and Scott Martin (R-13) in introducing the constitutional amendment, Senate Bill 959, after the Department of Health issued a mask mandate for schools in August 2021 that was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in December of the same year.
“The courts were thankfully able to strike down some of these unconstitutional mandates,” said Ward. “This legislation hopefully puts in place constitutional safeguards to ensure that these types of harmful overreaches by the executive branch do not happen again.”
On June 10, 2021, the General Assembly approved a concurrent resolution ending the COVID-19 disaster declaration. This ended the authority the governor and his administration cited under Title 35 to quickly execute statewide directives during an emergency response. This came after a ballot referendum was approved to limit the governor’s emergency authority and restore the balance of power in state government. Four months after the mandate was first issued the Pennsylvania Supreme Court appropriately struck it down.
Despite this legal victory, Ward and her cosponsors believe this constitutional amendment still remains necessary to prevent future overreaches from the executive branch. Senate Bill 959 now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
CONTACT: Nathan Akers, 717-787-2421