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Wolf’s empty wish of bipartisanship

Gov. Tom Wolf wants to make bipartisanship a priority in the state in 2021.

Wolf pointed out last week that over the past five years, he and the General Assembly have come together to take on big challenges by reforming pensions, taking steps to reform the state’s criminal justice system that include the passage of the nation’s first Clean Slate law and approving medical marijuana.

If the governor is serious about bipartisanship in the coming year, he could take a step toward building trust by ceding some of the additional rule-making power he was given at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wolf’s first pandemic emergency order was issued in March for 90 days and has since been repeatedly extended.

Republican lawmakers have repeatedly tried to overturn pandemic response policies undertaken by Wolf over the past year, but the governor has consistently vetoed the measures.

Republicans have now gone so far as to be only one vote away from putting a measure on a statewide voter referendum to limit a governor’s powers during a disaster emergency.

House members voted 116 to 85 in the latest legislative approval vote. One more vote in either the House or Senate is needed before the constitutional amendment can be considered in a statewide referendum, as early as the May 18 primary election.

The amendment would cap disaster declarations at 21 days unless lawmakers extend them. It would also give lawmakers the ability to end a disaster declaration with a two-thirds vote. The process has largely been decided along party lines thus far.

Additional executive authority seemed wise last March when no one knew if legislative bodies would be able to meet safely.

Now that it is abundantly clear that they can, governors like Wolf must cede their expanded emergency powers and restore the separation of powers that is written into the constitution.

If Wolf wants Republicans approval on his priorities, then he needs to give Republicans one of their priorities. That’s the way government is supposed to work.

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