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State House Committee Makes First Move to Strike Down Gov. Wolf’s Seizure of Emergency COVID-19 Powers

State House Committee Makes First Move to Strike Down Gov. Wolf’s Seizure of Emergency COVID-19 Powers

Authoritarianism has no place in Pennsylvania
By Trey 576 comments

The state House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee voted to end Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 disastrous disaster declaration on Thursday morning, along near-party lines.

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, it would go to the governor’s desk. Since Wold has used those powers to rationalize and justify shutting down businesses using a secret criteria since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it is assured he would veto, and Republicans don’t have the votes to override the veto unless enough Democrats stand up to Wolf.

“I can guarantee there will be a very spirited debate,” Rep. Stephen Barrar, R-Delaware and chair of deciding panel told reporters Thursday.

The proposal was approved by the committee 16-9, with one Democrat allying with the panel’s 15 Republicans in green-lighting the measure.

As written, the state’s emergency law states that the “General Assembly, by concurrent resolution, may terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time.”

It will be interesting to see if Wolf relinquishes his emergency powers if the disaster is declared over by the state legislature, or if he will go full Emperor Palpatine.

The law itself states that “the Governor is responsible for meeting the dangers to this Commonwealth and people presented by disasters.”

You can read the full text here.

Republicans have instead pushed to be a co-equal branch, and have spent much of the past month passing piecemeal proposals to reopen industry after industry over Wolf’s objections.

Wolf vetoed all the proposals.

Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, sponsored Thursday’s measure ending Wolf’s disaster order.

“Our duty as a co-equal branch of government is to serve as a check on that authority in case that judgment creeps into overreach or violates the rights of Pennsylvania citizens,” Diamond wrote in the March 17 memo. “By having a termination resolution ready to go, we will be prepared to act if that occurs.”

While there have been 64,000 coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania since the pandemic began and about 4,600 deaths (both numbers are unreliable thanks to mismanagement under Rachel Levine), 70% of the deaths have been among those in nursing homes, assisted living or personal care homes, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

The average age of Pennsylvanians who have died is 79.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, as of May 17, 2020, Pennsylvania has more COVID deaths over age 100 than under age 45.

Pennsylvania has more deaths over age 95 than under age 60. Pennsylvania has more deaths over 85 than under 80.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, there have now been 1.9 million new unemployment claims in a state with a labor force of 6.5 million since March 15, and the state unemployment rate is 27%.

The jobless rate in Lancaster County is above 22%.

New cases have been on the decline since April, and Diamond told reporters that the time has come to revoke Wolf’s executive authority.

From contact tracing that he says threatens citizens’ protections against illegal search and seizure to the two million unemployed unable to pursue their happiness through business closures and stay-at-home orders, Diamond charged that Wolf’s powers jeopardized Pennsylvanians’ God-given rights.