Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday to uphold Governor Tom Wolf’s Disaster Emergency Declaration despite a legislative attempt to end it.
When a concurrent resolution, HR836, passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, the General Assembly members who supported it declared the state’s pandemic response, for the most part, over.
They believed they had the ability to end the Governor’s Disaster declaration and bring an end to the phased response to the coronavirus outbreak. Wolf believed the General Assembly had to bring him that resolution, thus giving him the ability to veto it.
However, the General Assembly pointed to a clause in Pennsylvania’s disaster emergency laws that didn’t specifically call for what’s known as the “presentment clause” where they’d have to hand it over to the Governor.
The majority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices said Wednesday that’s not the case.
Supreme Court Split, But Rules in Favor of Governor Tom Wolf on HR836
So, the Pennsylvania pandemic response continues with Wolf’s controversial unilateral decision-making leading the way. Just hours before the Supreme Court decision was published, he and Health Secretary Rachel Levine ordered that face masks are required for all Pennsylvanians when in public, enhancing a previous order that they struggled for months to give a straight answer about to the media and present clearly on social media.
The Supreme Court ruling broke as follows, by justice:
- Majority opinion (4): Wecht, Baer, Todd, Donohue
- Concurring, Dissenting opinion (1): Dougherty
- Dissenting opinion (2): Saylor, Mundy
Wecht wrote in his majority opinion:
“The Senators may be frustrated that, the General Assembly previously having delegated power to the Governor, the rescission of that power requires presentment, perhaps necessitating a two-thirds majority to override a veto. But the potential for such frustration inheres whenever the legislative branch delegates power to the executive branch in any context. The General Assembly itself decided to delegate power to the Governor under Section 7301(c). Current members of the General Assembly may regret that decision, but they cannot use an unconstitutional means to give that regret legal effect. The General Assembly must adhere to the constitutional requirement of presentment even when attempting to overturn the Governor’s delegated putative authority to suspend laws.”
In the concurring, dissenting opinion, Justice Dougherty wrote:
In summary and to reiterate, I would hold Section 7301(c) of the Emergency Code violates the Pennsylvania Constitution and the offending portion of the statute may not be severed. For the reasons outlined above, “it cannot be presumed the General Assembly would have enacted the remaining valid provisions without the void one[.]” 1 Pa.C.S. §1925. The presumption of severability having been rebutted, in my view, we are left with no choice but to declare the statute unsalvageable.
And in the court’s dissenting opinion, Justice Saylor writes:
In summary, I would respond to the Governor’s petition and request for relief by holding that Article III, Section 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution does not require presentment of the concurrent resolution in issue here. In closing, I refer to a passage from Justice Powell’s concurrence in Chadha, in which he stressed that the boundaries between each branch should be fixed ‘according to common sense and the inherent necessities of the governmental co-ordination.’” Chadha, 462 U.S. at 962, 103 S. Ct. at 2790 (quoting J.W. Hampton, Jr. & Co. v. U.S., 276 U.S. 394, 406, 48 S. Ct. 348, 351 (1928)). I agree, and hence, I respectfully dissent.
Full Pennsylvania Supreme Court Opinions on HR836
Here’s the Pennsylvania Supreme Court opinions on the issues over HR836:
Majority Opinionpennsylvania supreme court majority opinion hr836
Concurring/Dissenting Opinionpennsylvania supreme court concurring dissenting opinion hr836
Dissenting Opinionpennsylvania supreme court dissenting opinion hr836
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