Over the last 10 months, York Countians have inundated our offices with questions and concerns over unilateral decisions set by the governor.
During any crisis, communication, collaboration and transparency are key to provide clarity to avoid confusion.
In the early days of the pandemic, the governor unilaterally shut down many businesses – large and small – across all sectors, with few exceptions.
Businesses then had to submit a waiver to be granted permission by state bureaucrats to open their doors and provide their good or service.
According to a report by the former Auditor General, the business waiver process was “subjective” with “inconsistencies” and “puzzling decisions.”
This has been a key a theme throughout the pandemic.
One York County kitchen cabinet manufacturer was denied a business waiver to operate, while the business bearing the governor’s family name continued to operate. There was no rhyme or reason, and the shuttered cabinet manufacturer had no recourse.
Then the state’s top health official at the time saw fit to move her mother out of a care home, which raised eyebrows as the same state officials forced nursing homes across the state to accept new COVID-19 positive patients. Imagine family members with loved ones in nursing homes seeking assurances that their loved ones were safe. What was their recourse?
Over two million Pennsylvanians were laid off through no fault of their own and were forced to navigate an outdated unemployment compensation system they have paid into only to find themselves tangled in a bureaucratic web. The General Assembly authorized over $300 million to make upgrades to this system since 2013. When these workers needed the system the most, it failed them. What was their recourse?
The state-owned liquor stores were eventually able to offer curbside pick-up, yet our locally owned small business retailers were not afforded that same option. What was their recourse?
Locally owned garden centers were shut down throughout the spring, yet you could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your neighbors at the large big box home improvement stores and buy the same products our small businesses offer. What was their recourse?
The governor would use late-afternoon press conferences to announce his unilateral decisions that went into effect within hours.
Now we are seeing teachers, first responders and police officers placed on a waiting list behind smokers to get their COVID-19 vaccine. What is their recourse?
Let me be abundantly clear: The people who are ordering these massive shutdowns and requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-19 positive patients have not missed a paycheck. They have dutifully signed the back of their paycheck every two weeks since March.
The majority of the members in the General Assembly want to give you the recourse.
Here is the one little known fact: the governor, the legislature and the courts cannot amend your constitution. Only you can.
If you believe the status quo is working, then you can express your opinion at the ballot box. However, should you believe there should be more collaboration, you can express your opinion at the ballot box. The key point is that you will make the ultimate decision.
We kept hearing the phrase: we are all in this together. This does not mean that we all blindly follow the orders of one individual. It requires collaboration, communication and transparency.
We are starting with collaboration and that is where you come in – Senate Bill 2 is a proposed constitutional amendment, which means no governor, court or legislature can stand in your way from exercising your rights to change your state constitution.
In order for your state constitution to be amended, the legislature must approve the same proposed constitutional amendment as a standalone bill in back-to-back legislative sessions.
The legislature approved this measure last session and again, at the start of this new legislative session.
In stating his opposition to the measure, the governor said, “So, now they are attempting to amend the Constitution to get their way.”
The people of Pennsylvania will finally 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.
No threat from the governor can stop the people of Pennsylvania from exercising their constitutional right to amend their own constitution.