Op-Ed: Pennsylvania Lawmakers Aim to Keep Tom Wolf at Bay

Originally published in The Wall Street Journal.

After a long pandemic year, many state legislatures are looking to limit or end the emergency powers given to governors at the beginning of the crisis. Reports of undercounting of Covid-19 deaths in New York nursing homes led Democratic lawmakers in Albany last month to strip Gov. Andrew Cuomo of emergency powers they had handed him last year. In Pennsylvania, the Republican-controlled legislature, known as the General Assembly, aims to go further and ensure that no Keystone State governor can again grant himself indefinite emergency powers.

On March 6, 2020, Pennsylvania’s Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf declared a 90-day state of emergency, which under state law gave him extraordinary powers to shut down schools and force closed all “non-life-sustaining” businesses. The goal in Pennsylvania was the same as in the rest of the country: to “flatten the curve,” buying time for the state’s hospitals and health infrastructure to prepare for the inevitable onrush of Covid cases.


During the initial 90 days, the Legislature sent Mr. Wolf seven bills tailored to reopen certain businesses safely and establish consistent Covid-19 mitigation standards. He vetoed them all. Last summer, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which is dominated 5-2 by Democrats, sided with the governor and allowed him to veto the Legislature’s attempt to rescind his special powers and claw back control over emergency disaster declarations. Mr. Wolf has renewed his initial emergency declaration four times, most recently on Feb. 19.


Now the General Assembly is…


Read more at The Wall Street Journal.