The Volokh Conspiracy

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Pennsylvania Voters Approve Restrictions on Governor's Emergency Powers

Disaster declarations can only last 21 days, instead of 90. A simple majority of lawmakers can terminate a disaster declaration.


In March, I wrote about proposed constitutional amendments in Pennsylvania that would restrict the Governor's emergency powers. Those amendments have now passed.

Pennsylvania voters have approved two ballot questions that would curtail the governor's emergency powers, a victory for Republican lawmakers in what was widely seen as a referendum on the Wolf administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Unofficial results show 54% of voters backed amending the state constitution to allow a simple majority of lawmakers to terminate a disaster declaration at any time. Currently, such a declaration can only be ended with the governor's consent or with support from two-thirds of the General Assembly.

Roughly the same percentage of voters also approved a proposal that limits a disaster declaration to 21 days, instead of 90, and transfers power to extend an emergency order from the governor to the legislature. The Associated Press projected Wednesday morning that voters had approved both measures, with 73% of the projected total votes counted.

More states should adopt these measures, and restore the balance of powers between the branches.