Senate Approves Constitutional Amendment Requiring a Legislative Vote on Extended Disaster Declarations

HARRISBURG – The state Senate today approved a constitutional amendment by a bipartisan vote of 28-20 that would limit the length of future emergency disaster declarations unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly, moving it one step closer to a voter referendum.

Senator David G. Argall (R-Berks/Schuylkill) voted in favor of this constitutional amendment.

“As of today, Pennsylvania has had an active COVID-19 emergency declaration for 326 days and one to combat the opioid crisis for 3 years,” said Argall.  “There should be no scenario in our democracy where one person can wield this kind of power indefinitely.”

Under current law, a governor’s emergency declaration can be renewed by the governor indefinitely. Under Senate Bill 2, the emergency declaration would be limited to 21 days unless the General Assembly approved 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.

Senate Bill 2 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. As a constitutional amendment, the legislation must be approved by the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions before being placed on the ballot for voters to decide. The measure was approved by the General Assembly in the previous legislative session by bipartisan votes of 33-17 in the Senate and 115-86 in the House.

A video of Senator Argall’s remarks on the floor of the Senate in support of this bill can be found at the following link: https://pasen.wistia.com/medias/i0ou9g3u5b

Contact: Jim Brugger

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