Jan. 28, 2021
– Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon) joined a majority of his House colleagues on Wednesday in approving a proposed constitutional amendment that would place limits on a governor’s emergency declaration powers.
House Bill 55
would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to state that a governor’s disaster emergency declaration may last no longer than 21 days, unless extended by the General Assembly. Currently, the governor may issue disaster emergency declarations lasting up to 90 days and may then renew the declarations multiple times with no limits.
“As it is right now, a governor has broad-based authority and unchecked power when it comes to the declaration of a disaster emergency,” said Heffley. “We have seen that abuse of power occur with the current governor, who has closed businesses during the pandemic with no rhyme or reason and without any basis in scientific fact.”
“The amendment will correct a law passed in 1978 that gave this broad, sweeping authority to one executive, which is not how our state government was originally set up. This legislation will bring back that balance in government by giving the people of Pennsylvania the power to limit emergency declarations through the officials they elected to represent them,” he added. “To be clear, this proposal does not eliminate such declarations, it would simply put checks and balances in place to ensure the governor and legislature work together during times of emergency.”
Constitutional amendments require identical proposals to be approved in two consecutive sessions by both the House and Senate. Once that occurs, the proposal can be placed before the voters on a referendum. Similar legislation was passed by the General Assembly during the last session which means the ballot question could be decided as early as the May 18 primary election.
House Bill 55 will next be considered by the Senate.
Heffley comments on the bill in the video below. .