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, said Senator Elder Vogel, who voted for measure.

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. 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.

“We learned many harsh lessons during the pandemic and one of most dramatic has been the impact of unchecked emergency declarations on employers, jobs and families here in Western Pennsylvania and across the state,” Senator Vogel said. “Under the current system, the General Assembly has been completely left out of the process that resulted in the closure of the state for weeks last year. As a result, dairy farmers were forced to dump their milk and others watched their harvests rot — and we as legislators had no way to lift the regulatory burden. Approval by the voters of the constitutional amendment in Senate Bill 2 would ensure that these decisions would be made prudently and responsibly and not simply by the edict of one individual.”

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.

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:               Heather Burke   

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