On May 18, Pennsylvania held its customarily scheduled municipal primary elections. Following the example of previous municipal primary elections, Keystone State voters were faced with several statewide questions and ballot initiatives. This year, these prompts included a new genre of questions: those related to Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency powers.
Two questions specifically targeted Wolf’s abuse of his emergency powers during the pandemic. The results show Pennsylvania voters have fatigued from overreaching executive authority and they have chosen to strip Gov. Wolf of his emergency powers.
The first ballot question asked if voters felt that the state constitution should be amended to provide additional checks on the governor’s emergency powers. More specifically, by allowing the General Assembly the authority to terminate an emergency declaration, effectively removing Gov. Wolf as the sole decision-maker when it comes to emergency declarations. Currently, under the Pennsylvania Constitution, any action by commonwealth agencies to address statewide emergencies requires the governor’s approval.
The second ballot question asked voters if the Pennsylvania Constitution should also be amended to place time restraints on emergency declarations. After Gov. Wolf extended emergency declarations in Pennsylvania time after time under the guise of the pandemic, voters chose to make emergency declarations automatically terminate after 21 days. Under the provisions of this ballot question, a state of emergency may be extended, however, only with support from the General Assembly.
According to the Morning Call, both questions had margins of approximately 54 percent in favor to 46 percent opposed. Overall, Keystone State voters rejected Wolf’s heavy-handed gubernatorial emergency powers, which shows their desire to rightfully inject the people and the legislative branch back into the decision-making process when it comes to prolonged (and unnecessary) emergency declarations.
Yet, this is not happening only in Pennsylvania. The sudden onset of the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with a plethora of governors who abused their pandemic emergency powers, has left several states reevaluating the statutes in their constitutions pertaining to state of emergency provisions and powers granted to the governor during a state of emergency. Moreover, many states have terminated their pandemic emergency protocols entirely as the pandemic has diminished over the past few months.
However, some states, and more precisely, some governors, have provided us the worst example of what can happen when one person is given unchecked power, with the ability to singlehandedly continue to extend that power. The dishonorable Gov. Andrew Cuomo is the first to come to mind. Although, unfortunately for the people of Pennsylvania, Gov. Wolf is a serious contender for second place.
Not only has Wolf been slow to ease up on the highly burdensome restrictions for Pennsylvanians, but now he is outright ignoring the wishes of the very people he was elected to represent. The news broke on the aforementioned results of the ballot questions on May 18. Yet, in a stunning display of temerity, on May 20, Gov.Wolf chose once again to renew his COIVD-19 disaster declaration — defying the basic tenets of the democratic process.
Wolf’s initial emergency declaration was enacted on March 6, 2020. His latest version revives his draconian emergency powers through yet another extension, as our Founders roll in their graves at the thought of Wolf’s authoritarian governance.
Of course, Wolf’s latest emergency declaration came only two days after the people of Pennsylvania gave a clear message to him that they reject his use (or abuse) of ongoing emergency powers.
Popular sovereignty, limited government, separation of powers, checks and balances, and republicanism are bedrock American principles. Unfortunately, these principles have been absent in Pennsylvania since the beginning of the pandemic. Wolf’s power-hungry policies, unchecked by the legislature and courts, have led to substantial negative socioeconomic effects for his constituents.
Finally, voters are standing up to Wolf and reasserting their rightful place as a much-needed check against a tyrannical executive. The pandemic is rapidly declining and Americans are looking forward to regaining all of their pre-pandemic liberties. It is time for Wolf to listen to his constituents, restore their personal liberties, remove his crown, and step down from his throne.
The pandemic has shown us the true colors of our elected officials. The sad truth is that in most cases, those elected to represent we the people are singularly concerned with maintaining their own power. Fortunately for Pennsylvanians, Gov. Tom Wolf will not be able to run for reelection. Thank God for term limits. However, even in a future without a Wolf, we the people must remain eternally vigilant against any and all government officials who woefully abuse their power — pandemic or not.
Samantha Fillmore (email@example.com) is a government relations manager at The Heartland Institute.
Image: T Wolf
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