May 20 — The two ballot initiative questions looking to take back some of the power from the governor and putting it back into the hands of the legislature passed in Tuesday’s election. Wolf on Thursday, in turn, decided to punish the State and signed a renewal of the Proclamation of Disaster Emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Voters will have the final say… the impact and significance of that victory should not be discounted.
A number of folks speculated that the questions had been deliberated worded to get a no vote, but that didn’t happen.
Pennsylvania stood up and said the governor has too much power in terms of declaring statewide emergencies, particularly in response to the pandemic, and after Tuesday, the legislature will now get a turn to have their voices – and ultimately our voices – heard.
This is huge in terms of the country, too. Pennsylvania became the first state to ever have voters remove the governor’s emergency powers via a ballot initiative.
Attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed the win this morning on First News.
“This was a bid deal,” Barkdoll said. “To have voter initiative – two initiatives – that have stripped the governor of his power to declare emergency declarations for extended periods of time and this was clearly in response to his unilateral exercise of these things over the last one plus year, which voters clearly spoke on Tuesday and said we don’t like this. This should never happen again.”
One little caveat to the whole thing is the powers will likely be in place until mid- to late-June.
Barkdoll said, “Some people asked me yesterday why can’t the General Assembly just convene and now vote? The voters have approved this. The General Assembly will be able to do that eventually, but because these were statewide initiatives, those statewide ballots…the general assembly cannot take any action on this until the votes have been certified. So we’re stuck for another two, three weeks at least until the general assembly could get something on the floor and take a vote on this.”
Jansen lamented, “So the governor can continue to destroy the economy of Pennsylvania when there’s absolutely zero justification to do so, including not lifting some restrictions until Monday after the Memorial Day weekend. I don’t know how he does this with a straight face.”
The mask mandates are technically still in place and will not be lifted until 70% of Pennsylvanian’s are vaccinated, which will likely be soon. Additionally, capacity of indoor facilities and other issues are still in place. They will be eased on Memorial Day, but some will probably keep floating for at least another month.
“And that’s assuming by then the General Assembly would be able to get a vote on the floor to formally appeal these things,” Barkdoll noted.
Jansen asked, “So even if you’re vaccinated, you still have to wear a mask according to this governor?”
Barkdoll said, “Right. You do see private businesses saying masks are optional if you’re fully vaccinated. And that is acceptable. That’s consistent with what the CDC has said but this is very confusing because there’s somewhat of a disconnect between the CDC’s guidance and what Governor Wolf is saying. The bottom line is I don’t know how strictly, if at all, any of this is being enforced. Yes it’s in place, but you go around and talk to people in businesses, I don’t think anyone is really following this stuff at this point.”
Ryan wondered can the business owner ask you have you been vaccinated?
Barkdoll replied unequivocally, “No. I think this is all on the honor system. The can put a sign up that says if you’ve not been vaccinated, you must wear a mask, but they have no way to verify if you’re telling the truth or not. This thing is totally the honor system.”
It’s even the same way in the Franklin County Court.
“If you’re fully vaccinated you can come into court without wearing a mask,” Barkdoll said. “If you’ve not been vaccinated, you need to keep a mask on, follow social distancing, etc., but it’s all on the honor system. No one is able to ask you for proof that you have been vaccinated.”