EXCLUSIVE: A Constitutional Showdown over the Shutdown is Brewing in the State Capitol This Week and Gov. Wolf’s Lockdown is the Target as Open Defiance of the Governor Grows
This week may decide whether Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf’s lockdown and phased reopening of the Keystone State continues indefinitely or ends for good.
As the legislature resumes session this week two bills are on the floor of the house and senate, one of which Republicans say they will pass.
Legislative insiders told Lancaster-blog exclusively that the plan is to pass either State Rep. Russ Diamond’s HR 836 in the senate as-is, which would effectively move all the state to “phase green” immediately (limited capacity general opening), or to pass S323 which would open up the state beyond the “phase green” limits.
A third, preferred option would be to amend one of the two even further to remove all restrictions on the lockdown immediately.
Without getting into the weeds, whatever version goes through, there would have to be reconciliation between the house and senate bills, and Republicans are confident they have the votes for that as well as whatever amendment measures are necessary.
“Our hope is to pass (Republican State Senator Doug) Mastriano’s version with amendments to effectively end all of these restrictions, get that through the House and have this over,” one legislator told Lancaster-blog.
Democrats and Gov. Wolf have threatened that even if such a bill passes, the governor would veto it and the Republicans don’t have the votes to override a veto.
However, legal experts and legislators have told Lancaster-blog that they don’t believe a governor’s signature is necessary for a measure like this. Calls to the attorney general’s office in Harrisburg were not returned at the time of publication, and this story will be updated if we get the state attorney’s legal opinion on the matter.
All of this comes as business owners throughout Lancaster County and the state are starting to openly defy the Governor’s unilateral lockdown order and his foot-dragging, slow and limited reopening plan that comes in phases.
Lancaster-blog has spoken to a number of restaurant owners in Lancaster and York counties now that are opening their indoor dining rooms rather than limiting seating to partial, outdoor dining, as well as to lawyers who are setting up legal defense networks against any state action that comes as a result of this.
“The state is weaponizing business licenses,” a legislator told Lancaster-blog. “I’ve never seen anything like this. What a terrible thing to say to a person – ‘you are not essential.’ It’s horrible to say when you take the responsibility to go to work to provide for your families, for your employees, for your partners with dignity instead of taking a government handout.”
Another told Lancaster-blog that reopening the state as the Republican lawmakers want will save lives, not endanger them.
“We are destroying more lives than we are saving with this lockdown,” he said. “Reopening saves lives. Their narrative that this is ‘profits over people’ is a lie. You have overdoses, substance abuse, unreported domestic violence and child abuse, people putting off cancer screening and medical treatment, a spike in the use of anxiety and sleeping medications. This is what the lockdown is bringing.”
Another Lancaster County elected official said that for the first time in her position as an office holder, she found herself having to refer constituents to a suicide prevention hotline as a direct result of the conditions of the lockdown.
On Friday night several of these legislators and office holders met in Lancaster with about 30 business owners at a restaurant where the inside dining room was serving, to discuss a growing network of legal teams and defense funds being set up to counter Governor Wolf’s unilateral rules and the abuse of state licensing to punish dissenters.
The event was hosted by ReOpenPA’s Matthew Bellis, who reminded everyone that the most important item on the menu is liberty, and that we should all heed what Ben Franklin said about “Minding Your Business” – the motto on the first penny he minted.
Separately, Diamond’s office says that he is planning to introduce a bill that would effectively prevent any governor from ever taking action as Wolf has, and another to limit the governor’s emergency declaration to deal with the unrest fomented by anti-police protests throughout the state.
A revolution is brewing in the state where revolution was born in America, and this week all eyes are on Harrisburg. The question is whether legislators will follow through and then what happens after when an authoritarian faces open defiance.