5 Reasons Why the Emergency Powers Amendments Are Needed

May 4, 2021, Harrisburg, Pa. — Today, members of the Wolf administration held press conferences addressing the emergency powers constitutional amendments on the May primary ballot and Gov. Wolf announced changes to his COVID-19 mitigation measures. Like other changes to his emergency measures over the last year, these will happen arbitrarily, without any reasonable basis in science, comprehensible explanation for their timing, or substantiated clarification as to what benchmarks were met (or existed at all) to instigate the announcement.

Additionally, like his previous alarmist remarks about the proposed constitutional amendments to change the state’s emergency powers laws, today’s will not reflect the truth about why the amendments are needed.

Commonwealth Foundation Vice President Nathan Benefield has outlined the following five reasons why the emergency powers amendments are necessary:

  1. The amendments would move Pennsylvania to the norm, it is currently an outlier. Many states already require legislative input into declared emergency, and several others have already changed the law to require more collaboration between the branches..
  2. Contrary to Wolf’s messaging, the amendments don’t end his emergency declaration. The amendments would simply require the governor to work with the legislature to extend the declaration, and set policy. If he can provide sufficient justification to the people’s representatives for another extension, he could and should do so in a cooperative manner. And the legislature could and should consider his administration’s evidence-based reasoning with care.
  3. If an emergency like COVID-19 happened again, or if we experienced a third wave, this amendment would reduce the likelihood of mistakes made due to bureaucratic shortsightedness.  Over the past year, Governor Wolf erred by implementing a waiver process that kept big box stores like Walmart and Lowes open while closing smaller businesses, shut down home construction and real estate when people needed housing, shut down car sales when people needed transportation (and neighboring states kept them open), and closed state-run liquor stores, driving Pennsylvanians to Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey to buy alcohol. He reversed course on all of these decisions only after the legislature advanced bills—but he could have avoided these mistakes by consulting with the legislature and others in the community.
  4. Wolf’s restrictions have not led to fewer deaths, either as a proportion of the state’s population or in total, compared to other states. Last summer, Wolf blasted the governors of Florida and Texas for being less restrictive, yet Pennsylvania has far more deaths per capita than either Florida or Texas – about 26% more than Florida and 17% more than Texas. And Pennsylvania – like its neighbors New York and New Jersey – has seen new case counts exceed those of Florida and Texas, even while maintaining tougher restrictions. The feeling of protection gleaned from restrictions is not reflected in reality.
  5. The economic cost of Wolf’s ongoing restrictions to our communities, to workers, and local businesses has been worse than nearly every other state. At the height of lockdowns, Pennsylvania was number two in both jobs lost and businesses closed by government orders, according to Census Data; and by other rankings, had the third most restrictions. Thanks to push-back from the state legislature forcing Gov. Wolf to reverse course, we now rank 15th in most restrictions, 9th highest in unemployment rate, and moving up from the bottom to 42nd in CNN's recovery meter.


Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Michael Torres 850-619-2737 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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