Pennsylvania votes to limit Governor’s Emergency Powers

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania passed four constitutional amendments including two amendments that limit the Governor’s ability to declare an emergency.

This comes over a year after Governor Tom Wolf shut down the state almost entirely in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite saying he would not put the state in another lockdown, he would later close many businesses last December including restaurants, bars, gyms, and other types of retail businesses.

Governor Wolf has continued to keep the state under emergency declaration despite most of the country beginning to fully re-open and lift mask mandates. Pennsylvania ranks fifth nationally in administrating the COVID-19 vaccine and is close to having 50% of the adult population fully vaccinated. However, the current mask mandates are expected to be in place until at least 70% of the population above 18 is fully vaccinated.

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The first question asked voters whether the state General Assembly should have the power to unilaterally terminate or extend an emergency declaration by a simple majority rather than presenting a resolution to the sitting Governor. The second question of the Governor’s power to declare a state of emergency would now expire after 21 days unless taken up by the General Assembly.

Both questions narrowly passed with large support across the state as well as in key suburban areas such as Dauphin and Chester Counties. In Delaware County — a suburb of Philadelphia that voted for President Biden by 26 points — both questions came nearly within single digits of voting “No”. These were significant swings that could make Republicans hopeful for a 2022 suburban comeback.

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