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OP-ED: What a 'yes' vote means on May 18 ballot questions

State Sen. Mike Regan
31st Senatorial District
York County Senator Kristen Phillips-Hill, Rep. Keith Gillespie, and Rep. Seth Grove, listen as Senator Mike Regan addresses Governor Wolf's recent remarks a rally at Gene Latta Ford in Hanover, Tuesday, May 12, 2020. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

On Tuesday, May 18, voters will head to the polls for Pennsylvania’s primary election, and in addition to local government races, electors will be asked to vote on four separate ballot questions, which have been authorized by the General Assembly.  It is important to understand exactly what these ballot questions are asking and what your “yes” vote means.

Throughout COVID, people have felt powerless and now the legislature is returning power to the people through these ballot questions. Unfortunately, Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration continue to mislead the people of Pennsylvania with false information about two of the questions with regard to future emergency declarations.

Gov. Wolf first issued a COVID emergency declaration in March 2020. Current law provides for an emergency declaration to last up to 90 days and be renewed by the governor indefinitely. He has renewed his declaration four times since last March with absolutely no collaboration with the legislature.

Current law also provides for the General Assembly to end a declaration through the passage of what is called a concurrent resolution, but our state constitution requires all concurrent resolutions to go before the governor.  Not surprisingly, Gov. Wolf vetoed our attempt to end his COVID declaration last year. 

More:Your guide to Pa.’s 2021 primary ballot questions

More:Ballot questions should be clear, but two written by the Wolf administration don’t pass the test

And that is why two of the four constitutional amendments appearing on the May 18 ballot are so important. One limits an emergency declaration to 21 days unless the General Assembly approves a longer duration. The other clarifies that the governor will not be able to unilaterally veto legislative action that ends the declaration.

The governor’s actions during COVID have had zero checks and balances. He has single-handedly dismantled that key function of government, which our country was founded on. Our governor, who touts transparency, has refused to discuss his strategies and decisions with the legislature — your representatives in government. I saw this firsthand as chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee as the governor shut down businesses, closed schools, altered election laws and paralyzed the commonwealth’s economy. We cannot allow this unilateral decision-making power to continue.

And it is important to remember that this is not just an issue in Pennsylvania. More than thirty other states are taking back control from governors — from both sides of the aisle — that cut out the legislature and set policy that negatively impacted the people of their states. 

So, do not be fooled by the governor’s disingenuous claims or his Department of State, which by law, is charged with writing the ballot questions in response to all legislation authorizing constitutional amendments passed by the General Assembly. Unfortunately, instead of giving Pennsylvania voters a clear, concise and fair explanation of these two amendments on the ballot, the Department of State gave us 145 words worth of confusing, partisan propaganda. This is a clear attempt to sabotage these amendments so Gov. Wolf can maintain his dictatorship.

What is important to remember when you go to the polls on May 18 is that your “yes” vote means returning power to the people by ensuring your elected state senators and representatives are part of the decision-making process for emergency declarations by requiring the governor to work with the legislature.

It is as simple as:

Question 1: A yes vote means a majority of state lawmakers, elected by the people, can vote to end emergency declarations and restrictions on citizens.

Question 2: A yes vote means emergency declarations are limited to 21 days unless the General Assembly, elected by the people, approves longer.

To learn more about these and the other two ballot questions, voters can visit: https://issue.pasenategop.com/ballot-question/. And those registered as Independent can vote on the ballot questions during the primary.

— State Sen. Mike Regan represents Pennsylvania’s 31st Senatorial District covering parts of Cumberland and York counties.