Voters should have voice in emergency declarations, Phillips-Hill says


HARRISBURG – Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) voted in support of a proposed constitutional amendment that would, if approved by Pennsylvania voters, limit a governor’s emergency declaration to 21 days before requiring the support of the General Assembly to renew and extend the declaration beyond three weeks.

During the 2019-2020 legislative session, the General Assembly approved Senate Bill 1166, which would limit the length of an emergency declaration to 21 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.

Senate Bill 2 mirrors that legislation. For Pennsylvania to amend its constitution, the legislature must approve the same legislation in concurrent sessions, then the question heads directly to the voters for an up-or-down vote.

“We have seen drastic decisions over the last 10 months by this governor,” Phillips-Hill said. “The people of Pennsylvania feel that their voices are not heard, phone calls go unanswered and clarity is impossible to find. Life-changing decisions, like placing COVID-19 positive patients into nursing homes, picking and choosing winners and losers with our economy, failing to account for how the second-most stringent economic shutdown in the nation would lead to major shortcomings with our outdated unemployment compensation system, and prioritizing smokers over teachers, first responders and police officers for the vaccine are just a few of the many complaints I have received since March.”

“This proposed constitutional amendment would give people the final say. At the end of the day, this is their constitution; not the governor’s or the legislature’s. They get a front row seat in providing a referendum of sorts as to how this governor has handled this pandemic over the last 10 months and how future emergencies should be handled – with or without the will of the duly elected state representatives and senators of the General Assembly. And no threats from the governor’s administration can stop them from exercising their constitutional right to do so,” she added.

Senate Bill 2 heads to the House of Representatives for its consideration. Should the House approve of the bill, it will head to the voters for their approval.