Pennsylvania voters move to limit governor’s emergency powers

In a primary election on May 18, Pennsylvania voters got their chance to strike back against Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and the lockdowns and restrictions he imposed amid COVID-19 — some of which lasted for months.

Two referendums to limit the governor’s emergency powers passed by healthy margins in the state, the Associated Press reported, forcing Wolf and future governors to get approval from the Pennsylvania state legislature to extend declarations past 21 days and allowing the legislature to cancel any restrictions after that time period with a simple majority vote that cannot be vetoed.

According to Breitbart, many Keystone State residents including some Democrats were unhappy with Wolf’s decision last year to close nonessential businesses and to stagger the state’s reopening. Even more contentious was a waiver process that many said was unfairly applied and allowed some businesses to stay open while others were denied.

The state legislature, which has been Republican-controlled, pushed back against Wolf’s restrictions but could not overcome vetoes on several bills that were passed to end restrictions sooner.

Pennsylvanians strike back

According to reports, Pennsylvania is now the first state to curtail a governor’s emergency powers directly at the ballot box. Both referendums amend the state constitution.

Wolf, for his part, said Wednesday that he wanted to meet with the legislature about the current disaster declaration, which is set to expire Thursday at midnight.

He claimed that the referendums would have no impact on restrictions in the state, which come from the health secretary directly.

The disaster declaration is still necessary, Wolf said, in order to get funding for first responders and activate and pay the National Guard, if needed.

“The voters have spoken”

Still, Wolf has accepted the results of the latest ballot initiatives. “The voters have spoken,” the governor told reporters of the referendums, according to the AP. “And we’re going to do what I think the voters expect us to do and to make the best of it.”

According to the AP, state Republican Party chairman Lawrence Tabas said in his own statement that Pennsylvanians voted to “put a stop to Gov. Tom Wolf’s dictatorship.” Nationally, Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Ronna McDaniel said the vote showed that “accountability” would be coming for Wolf.

The results are still unofficial, but are not expected to change when the rest of the votes are counted.

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