May primary ballot question will determine future of Pa. disaster declarations

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Pennsylvania voters will have three ballot questions at the May primary to change the state Constitution.

Two of them have to do with a Governor’s power during an emergency declaration. The Republican-controlled legislature has been frustrated by what it calls “Governor Wolf’s unilateral handling of the pandemic and his unchecked power to close schools and businesses.”

They encourage a “yes” vote on the ballot questions to give them a seat at the table. State leaders say right now, Governor Tom Wolf and future governors have the power to declare emergencies, extend emergencies and have the sole power to end emergencies.

“That’s a problem. We could go on forever in a state of emergency and we will have one branch of government which is what we have had,” said Senator Kim Ward (R), Pa. House majority leader.

Pa. Department of Human Services Senior Advisor Teresa Miller says the state has gotten more than $1.3 billion in additional federal funds for food assistance since the pandemic began — help that might stop if Pa. ended its disaster declaration.

In a statement, the Governor’s Office accused Republicans of lying about the ballot questions and said if passed, the state’s ability to respond to disasters would be hindered and could potentially cost millions in federal aid.

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