Our opinion: Ruling halts Wolf’s big grab

While many people — perhaps Gov. Tom Wolf most of all — may have been surprised by last week’s ruling from U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV, we were not among them.

Stickman struck down most of the COVID-19 restrictions Wolf has left in place for several months as unconstitutional. That means, unless this ruling is overturned by a higher court or the governor is able to obtain a temporary injunction, restrictions on restaurant occupancy, gathering sizes, what businesses are and are not allowed to be open and basically everything but the mask-wearing requirement the governor has unilaterally enacted are now unenforceable.

We’ve been saying for months how we’ve felt Wolf has grossly overstepped his authority and exceeded the intended purpose of an emergency declaration.

We’ve said if, not just Wolf, but any governor can use emergency powers endlessly without answering to anyone, that’s just asking for an abuse of power. We’re glad to see a judge has agreed.

Now, some may view this as akin to us advocating for pretending the public health crisis is over and immediately returning to the way it was in 2019 when very few of us had ever heard the word coronavirus. But that’s not it at all.

What we’ve wanted all along was for the governor to work with the General Assembly to come up with common-sense measures that can be taken to protect the public while not torpedoing the entire economy — such as wearing face coverings while around others.

We want everyone’s interests to be heard, not just the governor’s. That’s how a representative government is supposed to work.

Even though it may have been understandable if they did, Republicans in the state Legislature aren’t taking a victory lap. This isn’t a time worth celebrating. It’s a time for working together to find the right balance between protecting citizens’ physical health while still allowing people the freedom to make a living. The lawmakers seem to understand that. Perhaps now the governor now will, too.

As we have said, and the court has agreed, the Constitution doesn’t stop being the Constitution just because of what is happening in the world.

Rights that can be revoked because an elected official has declared as much aren’t rights, but temporary privileges — and the first 10 amendments aren’t called “The Bill of Temporary Privileges.”

It is our hope the news isn’t too little, too late for those who have struggled to make ends meet due to Wolf’s unconstitutional power grab.


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