Each month, the Senate State Government Committee prepares a summary of recent meetings of the committee and highlights from the Pennsylvania Senate. Here is this month’s “State Government Chairman’s Report”. As always, if you have any suggestions for a future edition or concerns you would like to see the State Government Committee address, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Senator Dave Argall, Chairman
Voters can Decide how much Power the Governor has During Emergency Declarations
When voters head to the polls on May 18, they will have the final say on two potential amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would protect our communities by giving the state legislature more say during an emergency declaration. The way the Wolf Administration worded these two questions has been roundly criticized as confusing and biased, so it is critical for voters to understand what the questions really mean before casting their votes.
The first question asks whether the General Assembly should be allowed to terminate an emergency declaration if a governor continues to wield emergency powers long after the disaster has passed. A YES vote means the General Assembly could serve as a check on the governor’s power during an emergency to protect the rights of Pennsylvanians.
The second question asks whether future emergency declarations should be limited to 21 days unless extended by the General Assembly. A YES vote means the governor would be prohibited from maintaining unilateral control for an indefinite period during an emergency.
Remember this KEY fact: ALL registered voters are permitted to vote on these three questions during the Primary Election, Independents and members of ALL political parties!
Pennsylvania Loses Seat in U.S. House of Representatives
The release of U.S. Census data this week confirmed projections that Pennsylvania would lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the Associated Press, our state’s population growth, which was 2.4%, continues to lag significantly behind the national average of 7.4%.
This news has huge implications for the congressional redistricting process, which I will lead as the Chairman of the Senate State Government Committee, because there are now 18 incumbent PA Members of Congress and 17 available seats. Read more here.
To learn more about the Census, watch a hearing I chaired of the Senate State Government Committee on the topic above.
Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform holds Third Hearing
The Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform held its third hearing this month, this one focusing on the administration of elections in Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties. The Committee heard testimony from the Philadelphia City Commissioners and the County Executive from Allegheny County.
Once the Committee wraps up their hearings, they will draft a report with recommendations and submit it to the Senate State Government Committee, which I chair. At that time, I will begin aggressively pursuing legislation to fix the problems that arose during the 2020 election. To learn more about the committee’s exploration of the 2020 election, visit this link to their website.
Why won’t the Wolf Administration Release Data on Wasted Vaccines?
One of the biggest concerns I have had with the Wolf Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been the consistent lack of transparency with how many of the most impactful decisions were made. Throughout the last year of the pandemic, the Department of Health has made a habit of using a law from 1955 to shield them from any public disclosure requirements relating to COVID-19.
As the rollout of the vaccine progressed, some began to ask questions about how efficient the process has been, and if any vaccines were wasted for any reason. Unsurprisingly, the Wolf Administration declined to release this information. In response, I introduced Senate Bill 559, which would require this information to be released. Watch an interview I did on PCN on this topic here.
Why are PA Taxpayers on the Hook for Empty Offices?
Why are PA taxpayers paying for empty offices in buildings across the state? As part of this year’s Budget Hearings, I asked the Secretary of the Department of General Services for an update on this important issue.
Last session, I sponsored a bipartisan new law to end this practice. In the past three decades, our state has seen a 26% reduction in the number of state employees – and yet we see little evidence of a corresponding reduction of office space.
We’ve heard instances of the state maintaining empty floors in state-owned office buildings while at the same time leasing additional office space across the street. We should all agree that this is, quite simply, stupid and completely unacceptable.
Pennsylvania Democrats Look to End Nation’s Longest Gubernatorial “Three-Peat” Drought
A recent analysis by Dr. Eric Ostermeier noted that Pennsylvania has not elected a Democratic governor for three terms in a row in 174 years, the longest drought in the nation. The last time this took place was in 1847, when Governor Francis Shunk was elected for his second term, the fourth consecutive gubernatorial election win for Democrats. Since then, the closest this streak has come to being broken was in 1994 when Lieutenant Governor Mark Singel lost by 5.5 points to Governor Tom Ridge in an election to replace Governor Robert Casey Sr. 2022 presents another opportunity to break this record.
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