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PA House Passes Measure to End Gov. Wolf’s Emergency Declaration and Lockdown in Bipartisan Vote Late Thursday

PA House Passes Measure to End Gov. Wolf’s Emergency Declaration and Lockdown in Bipartisan Vote Late Thursday

Gov. Wolf doesn't get to veto the measure, legal experts say
By Trey 379 comments

With a bipartisan vote of 117-85, the Pennsylvania House has voted to approve HR 836 which ends Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency declaration and business shutdown.

The bill was approved late Thursday and now moves to the Senate, which resumes session June 8. The portion of the emergency declaration that allows nursing homes and long-term care facilities to receive additional help would remain in place.

Republicans say that Senate approval is all it would take for the legislation to take effect.

“If the Senate approves, Gov. Wolf’s order ends effective immediately,” said state Rep. Seth Grove, R-York.

According to the legislation, the General Assembly by concurrent resolution may terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time.

“Thereupon, the Governor shall issue an executive order or proclamation ending the state of disaster emergency,” the legislation states.

While a statement issued by a spokesman for House Democrats late Thursday called the move an “empty gesture,” that statement appears to be the real empty gesture. Earlier today a spokeswoman for Wolf said the governor would veto the resolution if it reaches his desk, but it appears that it isn’t going to his desk or need to to become enacted.

Legal analysts say that if the governor can make a unilateral emergency order as he did on March 19, the check is the legislative branch without a veto qualification.

In other words, the governor did not need legislative agreement to enact his order, therefore the legislative arm does not have to submit to an executive arm veto with their own unilateral action.

Over at JDSupra’s blog, the legal opinion also is that 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.” 

In a written statement, House Majority Leader Rep. Bryan Cutler said the resolution leaves in place the state’s emergency declaration and ensures nursing homes and long-term care facilities will get needed assistance.

“Schools are not teaching; jobs are not paying; and government is not working for the people. The best step for all residents of our state is to allow workers, employers and nonprofits the ability to safely resume their work,” Cutler said.