How far can a governor go to make laws when the legislature doesn’t agree? Rep Paul Schemel talks about it…

HARRISBURG – A number of times in the recent past Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf has actually gone around the legislature to make decisions and pass policy pushing his agenda.

One such instance would be the recent PA Human Relations Commission’s bid to expand definitions in human rights laws in Pennsylvania.

The new potential policies were released about a month ago and public comments on them closed on May 9.

It will now be up to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission to decide whether or not to put these new policies into law.

Individuals and organizations did push back during the public comment period, but to what end, really?

The House State Government Committee made comments through the chairman, Seth Grove, to say these expanded definitions don’t actually fit the idea of regulations. 

The legislature has had the opportunity to make legislation on this issue and chose not to.

Hence this “work around” from the PA HRC.

State Representative Paul Schemel, who is on the House committee, said, “What this really boils down to is what can a governor do on his own or her own and what can they not? Once again, we see Tom Wolf who says I don’t care about the legislature, I’m just going to do things on my own. He did it on his own with regard to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, putting us into that. He did it on his own on a number of other measures and saying you know what? I’m just going to take regulation I’m going to regulate what would otherwise be legislation and that’s what he’s done here.”

The process seems a little un-Democratic.

Schemel said, “This is a solution in search of a problem. Tell me where the gay person is who can’t get a mortgage or can’t get a bank account open. Are you kidding me? This is not an issue. Which is one of the reasons the legislature said look this doesn’t really rise to the level of discrimination the way, for example, African Americans who couldn’t find lodging in the south during the 1960s, so we’re not going to include it in nondiscrimination just like we don’t include bald people, we don’t include fat people, we don’t include a lot of other categories of individuals that may from time to time suffer some form of discrimination, but it doesn’t come to the level of making it illegal.”

Could the state government hold hearings?

Schemel said, “We can hold hearings, but they really will be zero effect because once the Independent Regulatory Review Commission makes its decision, it becomes a regulation. But of course the next governor can then just pull that regulation out. It will be challenged in court, but it can’t be challenged in court until the regulation is actually enacted. The legislature doesn’t really have a roll. Remember the governor’s done this outside of the legislature so already we have not been given a roll in this.”