HARRISBURG – Future emergency disaster declarations could not be extended beyond 30 days without legislative approval under a proposed constitutional amendment approved by the Senate today, according to Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), who supported the measure.
Under current law, an emergency declaration from the governor can last up to 90 days and can be renewed indefinitely.
Senate Bill 1166 would limit the length of an emergency declaration to 30 days unless approved for a longer duration by the General Assembly.
The bill also would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to prohibit the denial of equal rights based on race or ethnicity. The change would bring the state Constitution into line with the equal protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution.
Limiting the length of an emergency declaration would ensure greater cooperation between all branches of government during an emergency and restore the system of checks-and-balances that Pennsylvania’s government was founded upon.
The need for the legislation has been highlighted by Governor Wolf’s refusal to work with the General Assembly during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The governor has used the disaster declaration for nearly 100 days to suspend state statutes, spend taxpayer dollars without legislative approval and keep millions of Pennsylvanians from earning a living through his business shutdown orders.
Because Senate Bill 1166 would require an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, the bill must be passed by the Senate and House of Representatives in two consecutive legislative sessions and be approved by voters via referendum.
The Senate approved a resolution on Tuesday to end the disaster declaration issued by Governor Wolf on March 6 and renewed on June 3. The concurrent resolution allows all businesses to reopen statewide.