Senate Approves Constitutional Amendment Requiring a Legislative Vote on Extended Disaster Declarations

Harrisburg – The state Senate today approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit the length of future emergency disaster declarations unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly, moving it one step closer to a voter referendum. 

State Senator Cris Dush (R-25) supported the proposal, which passed the Senate 28-20.

“We have a governor who refuses to relinquish power – power that he has seized in violation of the Emergency Declarations Act,” Senator Dush said in remarks from the Senate floor. “He has no authority to be taking away the rights of the people of Pennsylvania.”

Under current law, a governor’s emergency declaration can last up to 90 days and be renewed by the governor indefinitely. Under Senate Bill 2, the emergency declaration would be limited to 21 days unless the General Assembly approved a longer duration. It also clarifies that the legislature is not required to present the resolution ending the declaration to the governor for his consideration.

Many of the problems that occurred during the response to COVID-19 were due to the governor’s exercise of unilateral authority. These problems included flawed guidance that negatively impacted long-term care settings, delayed Unemployment Compensation payments to displaced workers, and individual businesses and entire industries being shuttered longer than necessary. 

Senate Bill 2 also provides for a constitutional amendment prohibiting the denial of equal rights based on race or ethnicity, bringing the Pennsylvania Constitution in line with the U.S. Constitution.

Senate Bill 2 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. As a constitutional amendment, the legislation must be approved by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions before being put on the ballot for voters to decide. The measure was approved by the General Assembly in the previous legislative session.

Contact: Cris Dush

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