Pennsylvania governor asks state Supreme Court to stop legislature from ending disaster declaration

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) appealed to his state’s Supreme Court Friday in an attempt to nullify the legislature’s resolution to end his coronavirus emergency disaster declaration and all accompanying shutdowns, according to Breitbart.

Both houses of the General Assembly passed a resolution, HR836, with bipartisan support last week to end the disaster declaration, a move they claim is permissible under the state’s emergency powers law.

Wolf claims that the state constitution says resolutions need to be presented to him for his approval and that he would disapprove the measure if he had received it. The legislature has not presented the measure to Wolf, because lawmakers claim it doesn’t need his approval to take effect, Breitbart noted.

“A concurrent resolution ending a disaster declaration is not an exercise of the legislature’s lawmaking authority that the [governor] can sign/veto,” GOP state Senate spokesperson Jennifer Kocher said, according to Breitbart.

Wolf fights back

State Rep. Andrew Lewis (R) was among those lawmakers who said definitively that as of Friday, when the resolution could finally be formally disseminated to the public, the disaster declaration was “DONE,” and businesses could legally reopen with no restrictions at any time.

According to legislators, Wolf had no choice but to declare the disaster declaration ended after the resolution was passed, but Wolf has thus far refused to do so, throwing the state into confusion about whether reopening some businesses remains illegal.

The GOP leaders sued Wolf in district court on Wednesday, according to Fox News, and the court ordered Wolf to respond by June 18.

Wolf, however, went straight to the state Supreme Court in hopes of resolving the matter faster and because he feared people would not stick to the state’s “careful” reopening plan, which involves capacity restrictions on businesses such as retail stores, salons, gyms, and restaurants even under the least restrictive green phase. Wolf called the legislature’s action “life-threatening” because of what he fears could happen if all restrictions and shutdowns are immediately ended in the state, according to PennLive.

Wolf has accused the legislature of “unilaterally” trying to end all shutdowns across Pennsylvania, and the GOP has long accused Wolf of acting in a similar manner in imposing the restrictions as well as a nearly three-month stay-at-home order in some places, particularly in the hard-hit southeastern portion of the state, as Philadelphia CBS affiliate KYW-TV reports.

Criticism mounts

Republicans have been fighting Wolf’s shutdowns since April, not only because they find them heavy-handed but because they say Wolf has not been transparent about thousands of waivers granted and denied to businesses throughout the process. Around 70% of the state’s just over 6,000 deaths have occurred in nursing homes and other care facilities for the elderly, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which has been another reason many in the state have wanted to see shutdowns outside such facilities end.

The Lewistown Sentinel ran an editorial on Friday with the title: “Gov. Wolf not OK with unilateral decision making – unless he’s doing it.” The piece pointed out that Wolf has been leaving the Republican majority out of any coronavirus-related decisions all along and argued that is it highly hypocritical to cry about “unilateral” action now that he’s on the other end of it.

Kocher said the GOP does not object to Wolf’s entreaty to the state Supreme Court and believes it is clear in the law that Wolf has no power to stop the legislature’s resolution, Breitbart reported. If prior practice holds, the court will quickly take up the matter and render a decision.

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