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Pa. high court to decide lawsuit seeking end to Wolf's disaster order

York Dispatch
Pennsylvania Supreme Court logo
(Liz Evans Scolforo photo)

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania's highest court on Wednesday granted the Democratic governor's request and took over a lawsuit by legislative Republicans that could end his pandemic shutdown order.

The Supreme Court announced it will decide the case filed by Senate Republicans, seeking to enforce a resolution that both chambers passed last week to end the state of disaster emergency imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf in March.

The case had been filed in Commonwealth Court, where Republicans hold a majority of the seats, but Democrats have a 5-2 edge on the Supreme Court.

Asked about the Supreme Court taking up the matter, Wolf said at a news conference later Wednesday: “I applaud that.”

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More:Pennsylvania lawmakers plow ahead on budget, emergency aid

The order said justices will decide the case based on filings that have been made in both courts and that they will “address the merits of the petitioner's application in due course.”

The high court announcement came one day after Commonwealth Court had scheduled oral argument for June 29.

Republican majorities in both chambers, along with a few Democrats, voted to end the emergency disaster declaration that has led to closure of “non-life-sustaining” businesses, bans on large gatherings and orders that people stay at home.

The sides dispute whether the legislative resolution has any legal weight without the governor's support. The state constitution grants governors the right to approve or veto concurrent resolutions, but the emergency services law includes a provision that gives the Legislature power to end disaster proclamations “at any time.”

The state attorney general’s office, which represents Wolf, made a filing last week that said legislative Republicans were trying to “upend the commonwealth’s carefully planned reopening process.”

Senate Republican leaders say the need for drastic action to cut infection rates has passed, and the shutdown order is needlessly harming the state economically.

A Senate Republican spokeswoman said Wednesday they were happy the justices acted quickly.