STEFANO – Committee Approves Constitutional Amendment Requiring a Legislative Vote on Extended Disaster Declarations. Moving it Closer to Voter Consideration

(Harrisburg) Today, Senator Pat Stefano (R-32) made good on his promise as Chairman of the Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee to promptly act on legislation to limit the length of future emergency disaster declarations unless the General Assembly approves an extension.

Senate Bill 2 includes three proposed amendments to the State Constitution.  The General Assembly must approve the exact language of Constitutional amendments in two consecutive legislative sessions before going to the voters for final approval. If approved by the legislature, the amendments could appear on the ballot as early as the upcoming Spring 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 approves a longer duration. It also clarifies that the legislature is not required to present the resolution ending the declaration to the governor for his consideration.

“The current emergency declaration has been in place for over ten months.  The blanket authority given to the Executive Branch under this declaration has been used to change and suspend state laws, prevent shuttered businesses from reopening with safety measures in place, and spend state and federal taxpayer dollars with no oversight or input from the legislature,” Stefano said.  “This measure is important to ensure that there are checks and balances in place so that no governor will have unilateral power to circumvent the Constitution to enforce his or her will on the people.”

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 must be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions. The measure was approved in the previous session, so it will be put on the ballot for voters to decide if approved again.

Senate Bill 2 will now be sent to the Senate for its full consideration.

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