BREAKING: Democrat-Controlled PA Supreme Court Votes On Strictly Party Lines to Nullify Legislature’s Attempt at Oversight of Governor’s Emergency Powers
The Democrat-controlled Pennsylvania Supreme Court sided with Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf in the constitutional showdown with the legislature over the extent of his emergency powers, endorsing the governor’s authority to lockdown the state without oversight and curtailing the effect of what the legislature viewed as their best possible check on executive authority.
In the strictly party-line ruling with the court’s five Democrats in the majority and two Republicans in the minority, the court said the legislature’s resolution to terminate the disaster declaration does not fall within one of the categories that avoids the need for the governor to weigh in on the matter. Without Wolf’s signature the resolution carries no legal weight.
“The Supreme Court has ignored the will of the people and has set a dangerous precedent,” Matthew Bellis of ReOpen PA told Lancaster-Blog when the decision came down.
The court bizarrely rejected the argument from the Republican legislators that its ruling in an April case implied the legislature could terminate the resolution absent the governor’s signature.
“Nowhere in Friends of Danny DeVito did we state that the Emergency Services Management Code allows the General Assembly to terminate a state of disaster emergency by way of concurrent resolution without presentment. No party in Friends of Danny DeVito presented to this Court the questions of interpretation of the concurrent resolution provision or the constitutional demands of presentment,” the opinion, authored by Justice David Wecht, said.
In a dissent, Chief Justice Thomas Saylor argued that the legislature’s intent when it passed the statute authorizing emergency powers ought to matter, and that legislative vetoes ought not be considered uniformly problematic at the state level, as they are — at least by the courts — at the federal level.
“I believe that the present context presents a compelling case that legislative vetoes should not be regarded as being per se violative of separation-of-powers principles,” he said.
In a separate opinion, Justice Kevin Dougherty, a Democrat, concurred in the court’s judgment that the resolution terminating the disaster declaration cannot hold legal weight without the governor’s signature, but he said the legislature’s intent to retain a check on the governor now having been nullified, he would see no choice but to strike down the entire emergency powers statute.
Lancaster-Blog has reached out to legislators to see what their next step will be in reigning in Wolf’s powers, and this story will be updated as appropriate.
Meanwhile, people and businesses throughout the Keystone State continue to openly defy the governor’s emergency orders.