Our opinion: Going overboard on Wolf’s powers

Persistence can often pay off and we’re hoping that’s the case for the General Assembly’s latest effort — in a long line of thus far fruitless endeavors — to wrest from the governor the ability to exercise dictatorial powers for however long he or she desires once he or she declares an emergency.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill last week that is the first step in the long journey to enshrine in the state’s constitution something we, frankly, believe is already in there: that the state’s chief executive should not possess the authority to declare an emergency for however long he or she deems it is necessary — conveniently extending the unilateral decision-making power that comes with it — without the legislature getting to weigh in.

The proposal that has passed the House would limit all emergency declarations to a maximum of 21 days before the General Assembly — you may remember it as the branch of government filled with people elected to represent their constituents’ local interests in Harrisburg — could decide to extend or end part of or the whole declaration.

The bill would have to pass the Senate this session and then be approved by each house again during the next legislative session before it can be presented to commonwealth voters for final approval or rejection.

We want to declare our unequivocal and full-throated support for this proposed amendment.

We’ve said plenty of times in this space that we do not agree with Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to essentially declare himself lord over us all during this pandemic, constantly ignoring calls to consider advice from people who aren’t in his cabinet and therefore do not rely on the governor for employment.

We also disagree strongly with the Democratic-majority Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to — for all intents and purposes — officially recognize the crown His Majesty King Thomas I placed upon his own head in March at the pandemic’s outset and set a dangerous blueprint for future governors of all political flavors to exploit.

Instead, we believe in the American founding principle of separation of governmental powers. We believe that it is wrong for one person ever to be the only one who gets a say about anything, much less how we navigate something as serious as the outbreak of a deadly infectious disease.

However, it’s clear that to make that happen, the state constitution needs to leave no room for interpretation. We will be watching — and hoping — the legislature’s stick-to-itiveness pays off and that the proposal makes it to voters.

We feel confident if it does, Pennsylvanians who wish to be governed rather than ruled from upon high will resoundingly choose to do what the court would not — put Pennsylvania’s executive branch in its place.


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