Ward: Constitutional Amendment Requiring a Legislative Vote on Extended Disaster Declarations Receives Final Legislative Approval

Harrisburg – A proposed constitutional amendment sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-39) to limit the length of future emergency disaster declarations unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly received final legislative approval today and will be put before the voters to decide in the May 18 primary election.

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 the legislature is not required to present the resolution ending the declaration to the governor for his consideration.

“Our state Constitution provides for three equal branches of government,” Senator Ward said. “By placing this amendment on the ballot, and receiving the approval of Pennsylvania citizens, we will ensure that representation exists even during an extended state emergency. This amendment will give power back to the people who elect us to represent them. I would like to thank the leadership of the PA House of Representatives and my colleagues in the State Senate for moving this initiative forward so that it will be in the hands of Pennsylvanians to decide upon this spring.” 

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.

As a constitutional amendment, the legislation had to 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 and passed by the House of Representatives today, following approval by the Senate on January 26.  In addition to Senator Ward, the initiative was sponsored by Senator Scott Martin (R-13) and Senator John DiSanto (R-15).

If passed by voters, the provisions will not jeopardize any current or future federal funding allocated in response to emergencies within the Commonwealth.

 “The citizens of Pennsylvania should have a say in reining in this extended, unilateral power on display during this emergency,” Ward said. “They are the ones who suffer the consequences when checks and balances don’t exist, including inconsistent vaccine rollouts, businesses that have been shuttered, nursing home residents who have suffered under the Department of Health, and hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers who continue to struggle to obtain unemployment benefits.”

 “The elected Pennsylvania Legislature attempted to pass bills to prevent and mitigate this damage, and the governor refused to listen to our constituents time and time again,” Ward said. “Now, it is those constituents who will have the chance to ensure that no future governor can wield such enormous power for so long.”

CONTACT: Caitrin Wilson cwilson@pasen.gov