The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision, sided with Governor Wolf, allowing him to ignore a concurrent resolution by the general assembly which declared an end to the state’s current emergency declaration.
What was the case about?
On March 6th, 2020, Governor Wolf declared a state of disaster emergency in Pennsylvania using the authority granted to him under Title 35, Chapter 73 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes.
The legislature, when this statute was first written, wisely included what you might call an “emergency off switch.” They knew, at some point in the future, a governor might declare an emergency and then refuse to relinquish the extra powers granted to him under that condition, for whatever reason he deemed necessary, so they also included this line which was the focus of the court’s decision:
The General Assembly by concurrent resolution may terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time. Thereupon, the Governor shall issue an executive order or proclamation ending the state of disaster emergency.
On June 9th of this year, the general assembly did just that, declaring an end to the disaster emergency, as the statute clearly and unambiguously states they have the power to do. Governor Wolf, decided to ignore the resolution, arguing the legislature must pass any resolution to him for his signature or veto. That would be true if the general assembly was creating new legislation, but this was not new, in fact it is the very same statute that the governor is currently using as the basis for his authority. In other words, he’s using the part of the law he likes while simply ignoring the part he doesn’t like.
PA Supreme Court justices are politically affiliated
Was it justice or politics?
Governor Wolf took the issue to the PA Supreme Court which issued three opinions, the majority opinion with 4 justices siding with the governor, 2 justices dissenting and one justice both concurring and dissenting, who after a long and tortuous process of rejecting most of what the majority decided, still sided with the majority because of an alleged constitutional issue.
So, after extensive legal justification for doing so (the majority opinion encompasses 40 pages) the court decided in a straight party line vote of 5-2, in favor of the governor.