GUEST EDITORIAL: Incompetence an emergency unto itself

Wilkes-Barre Citizens' Voice/AP
Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are distributed on Monday, May 3, 2021 at the York County Food Bank. The York County Food Bank is the first stop for Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Mobile Response Unit. Tina Locurto photo.

After politicizing the COVID-19 emergency and orchestrating a constitutional amendment to wrest control of emergency management from the executive branch, legislative Republicans have demonstrated why that is a bad idea.

Last week, the House Republican majority abruptly passed a bill to end Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency declaration regarding the pandemic. Their zeal to zing the governor was such that they apparently didn’t bother to examine the details of the emergency declaration. When the bill arrived in the Senate, senators had to retool it because it had eliminated matters that are important to management of — you know — an emergency.

More:Pennsylvania lawmakers eye final steps to end Wolf's emergency declaration, extend waivers

More:Pennsylvania's COVID-19 emergency declaration formally ends

In voting to void the emergency declaration, the House Republicans also voided a series of regulatory waivers that still are important for the health care community to handle COVID-19. For example, the governor’s declaration waived certain licensing requirements so that hospitals more easily could hire the doctors and nurses that they needed amid the crisis, and some procurement regulations to ensure the fastest possible acquisition of supplies such as personal protective equipment.

The situation demonstrates why the Legislature is ill-suited to manage emergencies, all the more so during this era of political polarization. The expertise and machinery of government resides in the executive branch, which by design executes government policy.

Yet, as if to put an exclamation point on its own preference for politics over competence, the House also passed a bill that would strip the state health secretary of the power to order certain measures during an infectious disease pandemic, including the authority to order travel restrictions, mask-wearing and stay-at-home orders. The Legislature would, in effect, assume the power to make things worse.

Wolf is certain to veto that awful bill. But there is no way to manage the emergency of poor governance by the Legislature unless Pennsylvanians themselves do so at the polls.

— From the Wilkes-Barre Citizens' Voice/AP