Senate Approves Constitutional Amendment Limiting Disaster Declarations

The Senate approved a proposed constitutional amendment on Tuesday that would limit the length of future emergency disaster declarations unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly, according to Senator Scott Hutchinson, who strongly supported the bill.

Senate Bill 2 includes three proposed amendments to the State Constitution. The exact language of constitutional amendments must be approved by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions before going to the voters for final approval.  The exact language of Senate Bill 2 was approved by the General Assembly in 2020 during the previous legislative session.  If Senate Bill 2 is approved by the House of Representatives, the amendments could appear on the ballot as early as the upcoming Spring Primary Election.

“Many of the broad-brush mandates and restrictions that were imposed across the state as part of the part of the initial response to the pandemic may have made sense for Pennsylvania’s urban areas, but were seen as overly burdensome for the communities and businesses in my district,” Senator Hutchinson said. “We tried on several occasions to bring the decision-making process down to the county and local levels, only to see those efforts snuffed out by the Governor’s veto pen. Unfortunately, it appears the only way to restore checks and balances to Pennsylvania government is through a constitutional amendment.”

Currently, a Governor’s emergency declaration can last up to 90 days and be renewed by the Governor indefinitely. Under the constitutional amendment in Senate Bill 2 the emergency declaration would be limited to 21 days unless the General Assembly approves a longer duration. The change would apply only to future emergency declarations.

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.

 

Contact:          Justin Leventry           jleventry@pasen.gov