Is a Constitutional Crisis Brewing in Harrisburg Over Whether the Legislature Can Reign in Governor Wolf and His Bizarre Secretary of Health?
Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf is speeding the timetable to move all Pennsylvania counties into the yellow phase – meaning no mandatory stay-at-home order but with most businesses in severe lockdown mode.
This raises the question of whether his newfound alacrity is an attempt to let off steam as the citizens increasingly rebel against enforcing his draconian lockdown, and to appease the majority of legislators who want to rescind his seizure of emergency powers.
Wolf’s shutdown of Pennsylvania, on the advice of Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, a pediatrician and political hire with no public health policy experience, has decimated the economy and created untold – and unjustified – hardship on working class people and small business owners.
Spotlight PA reports
Pennsylvania counties still under strict coronavirus restrictions — including hard-hit Philadelphia, its suburbs, and the Lehigh Valley — will move to the “yellow” reopening phase on June 5, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday.
By June 5, Wolf said all counties will at least be in the yellow phase of his tiered reopening plan. The last to go will be Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Northampton, Montgomery, and Philadelphia — counties that have yet to meet a case-decline standard Wolf’s administration established to determine when areas can safely begin loosening lockdown orders.
Chrysan Cronin, director and professor of public health at Muhlenberg College, said she’s always viewed one of the administration’s key metrics for partially reopening a county — fewer than 50 positive cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period — as arbitrary.
“That is not a scientifically proven number,” said Cronin. “We don’t learn about that in epidemiology school. They set a bar so they could watch the trends over time.”
Last week, the state House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee voted to end Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 disastrous disaster declaration.
The move came hours after the GOP-controlled House failed to get enough Democrats to break ranks and overturn Wolf’s veto of a bill that would have freed up hundreds of businesses across the Keystone state to finally reopen.
The legislative cancellation, authorized by the same state law that Wolf used to begin his unilateral, executive pandemic response, now moves to the full House.
If the House and Senate approve the measure this week when the legislature resumes session, it appears the measure would be subject to the governor’s veto, and it’s not believed that Republicans can get enough Democrats to cross party lines to override the veto.
However, a number of Republican legislators have told me that they would go to the mat on this and force a constitutional crisis. Details on how that would work to come, but it means this week or next will get interesting in Harrisburg.
Over at JDSupra’s blog, the legal opinion is the measure doesn’t, in fact, need Wolf’s signature.
While very broad, the Governor’s powers are not unrestrained. The General Assembly may terminate the disaster under the statute, and the Governor must then end the state of emergency. 35 Pa. C.S. § 7301(c). Moreover, the provisions of the statute are subject to general principles of separation of powers that render the Governor powerless to generally suspend acts of the General Assembly and Pennsylvania courts.”
On the Number of Days til expiration:
“While the Order is likely constitutional on its face and complies with the statute (except for its lack of specificity and failure to follow a statutory 90-day expiration provision), as applied the Order could be challenged as an arbitrary exercise of police powers.
A media colleague of mine put it more accessible to those of us without a deep understanding of legalese.
“If the governor can make a unilateral emergency order…the check is the legislative branch without a VETO qualification. In other words, the governor did not need legislative agreement to enact his order, why would the legislative arm have to submit to an executive arm veto with their own unilateral action?”
Gonna be a very interesting indeed.
And just to remind you, while Wolf seized this power, the architect of the policies that effectively smothered Pennsylvania’s economy and drove elderly COVID positive patients into nursing homes – resulting in 70% of all Pennsylvania COVID deaths to be among those in nursing homes and assisted living – was Health Secretary Levine, who failed to enact an existing plan to protect those in elder care.
Another gentle reminder – the unemployment rate in Lancaster County is more than 22%, and there are now 2 million people making unemployment claims in Pennsylvania since March 15.
Levine’s role in dictating the unnecessary lockdown policy that Wolf enacted has put the state on a lockdown that is not supported by the science. In fact, the studies Levine relied on have been proven to be fatally flawed.
Even though Wolf and his supporters will claim that the lockdown is what reduced the infection rate, making it possible to move to the yellow phase, the evidence is mounting now that no lockdown was ever necessary.
A new study from JP Morgan shows that Coronavirus lockdowns have failed to alter the course of the pandemic but have instead ‘destroyed millions of livelihoods.’
Falling infection rates since lockdowns were lifted suggest that the virus ‘likely has its own dynamics’ which are ‘unrelated to often inconsistent lockdown measures’, a report published by the financial services giant said.
Denmark is among the countries which has seen its R rate continue to fall after schools and shopping malls re-opened, while Germany’s rate has mostly remained below 1.0 after the lockdown was eased.
The report also shows many US states including Alabama, Wisconsin and Colorado enjoying lower R rates after lockdown measures were lifted.
Author Marko Kolanovic, a trained physicist and a strategist for JP Morgan, said governments had been spooked by ‘flawed scientific papers‘ into imposing lockdowns which were ‘inefficient or late’ and had little effect.
“Unlike rigorous testing of new drugs, lockdowns were administered with little consideration that they might not only cause economic devastation but potentially more deaths than Covid-19 itself,” he says.
The JP Morgan report includes graphs showing that ‘the vast majority of countries had decreased infection rates’ after lockdowns were lifted.
Infection rates have continued to decline even once a lag period for new infections to become visible is factored in, the report says.
A second graph shows a similar effect in the US, showing that many states saw a lower rate of transmission (R) after full-scale lockdowns were ended.
They included Colorado, Iowa, Alabama, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Mississippi, according to the chart, although not all states are included.
Nevada and North Dakota are among the exceptions which appear to have had a higher rate of transmission since normal life began to resume.
The R rate shows how many people each virus patient typically infects, and some countries regard a rate below 1.0 as a key indicator that the epidemic is in retreat.
“While we often hear that lockdowns are driven by scientific models, and that there is an exact relationship between the level of economic activity and the spread of [the] virus – this is not supported by the data,” the report says.
“Indeed, virtually everywhere infection rates have declined after re-opening even after allowing for an appropriate measurement lag.”
“This means that the pandemic and Covid-19 likely have [their] own dynamics unrelated to often inconsistent lockdown measures that were being implemented.”
Those dynamics may be influenced by increased hand-washing and even weather patterns but seemingly not by full-scale lockdowns, the report suggests.
“The fact that re-opening did not change the course of the pandemic is consistent with studies showing that initiation of full lockdowns did not alter the course of the pandemic either,” it says.
An Oxford University professor has previously suggested that the crisis in Britain began falling from its peak before Boris Johnson ordered a lockdown on March 23.
Professor Carl Heneghan said last month that the peak of new cases had come on April 8, suggesting a peak of infection three weeks earlier around March 18.
The JP Morgan analysis linked the decision to impose lockdowns to ‘flawed scientific papers’ predicting millions of deaths in the West.
‘This on its own was odd, given that in China there were only several thousand deaths, and the mortality rate outside of Wuhan was very low,’ it says.
‘In the absence of conclusive data, these lockdowns were justified initially. Nonetheless, many of these efforts were inefficient or late.’
In some European countries, studies suggest that the measures ‘did not produce any change in pandemic parameters’ such as the R rate, the JP Morgan report says.
Kolanovic says that lockdowns had remained in place even as “our knowledge of the virus and lack of effectiveness of total lockdowns evolved…
At the same time, millions of livelihoods were being destroyed by these lockdowns,” he writes.