Ballot questions are often boring or an afterthought. Not this year. Not only will voters select candidates for judge, municipal offices and school boards during the May 18 primary election, but, further down the ballot, we’ll have an opportunity to vote yes on an amendment to the Pa. Constitution that will limit a governor’s currently unlimited emergency powers.

Vote as if your livelihood depends on it. Vote as if democracy and liberty are on the ballot. Because they are. And, politics being politics, you have to vote yes on two ballot questions to get to the desired result.

The goal of the initiatives is simple: In case of a crisis like Covid-19, a governor would still be able to unilaterally declare an emergency and impose rules and restrictions on Pennsylvanians, but only for 21 days rather than the current 90. If the governor wants to extend the order beyond 21 days, a majority of the Pa. General Assembly must vote to approve it. Simple. Common-sense. After all, this is how a democracy is supposed to work: transparently and by legislation.

To further protect our rights, the legislature added a provision to the bill that put this question on our ballot–Senate Bill 2–aimed at preventing sneakiness: “Upon the expiration of a disaster emergency declaration…the Governor may not issue a new disaster emergency declaration based upon the same or substantially similar facts and circumstances without the passage of a concurrent resolution of the General Assembly.”

Vote as if your livelihood depends on it. Vote as if democracy and liberty are on the ballot. Because they are. And, politics being politics, you have to vote yes on two ballot questions to get to the desired result.

This proposal acknowledges that crises do occur, and a governor may need to declare an emergency and even impose related rules or restrictions.  But if long-term limits on freedom, business, education, travel—on life and liberty—are to be imposed, it requires that the governor work with  a majority of the legislature

So, we need to vote yes on all ballot questions during this spring’s primary election.

However—sadly, there’s almost always a “however” with government—there’s more to it. Gov. Wolf’s Department of State parsed the legislation into two ballot questions. Worse yet, they wrote the questions with the clear objective to confuse or frighten voters and defeat the measure by suggesting that voting yes would lead to chaos.

Here is the exact language of the two ballot questions that you will see on the May 18 primary ballot:

Question 1: “Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law and increase the power of the General Assembly to unilaterally terminate or extend a disaster emergency declaration—and the powers of Commonwealth agencies to address the disaster regardless of its severity pursuant to that declaration—through passing a concurrent resolution by simple majority, thereby removing the existing check and balance of presenting a resolution to the Governor for approval or disapproval?”

(Translation: Should a governor’s powers be limited during a long-term emergency by ensuring the governor and legislature agree on how, when and if to limit the freedom and liberty of Pennsylvanians?)

Question 2: “Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law so that a disaster emergency declaration will expire automatically after 21 days, regardless of the severity of the emergency, unless the General Assembly takes action to extend the disaster emergency; the Governor may not declare a new disaster emergency to respond to the dangers facing the Commonwealth unless the General Assembly passes a concurrent resolution; the General Assembly enacts new laws for disaster management?”

(Translation: Since the governor is allowed to impose rules and regulations limiting the constitutionally protected freedoms and liberty of Pennsylvanians during an emergency,  should the legislature be able to act as a check on the governor’s power by limiting the time a governor can extend an emergency declaration beyond 21 days?)

The deceptive phrasing of the ballot questions reflects how Wolf has acted throughout the Covid-era. He has rarely been transparent. He has rarely been candid, accessible or accountable. 

Wolf closed all business, except for those he deemed “life-sustaining”. Yet, he has still never adequately explained what such a business is. He created the infamous red, yellow and green reopening plan. Yet, he has never adequately explained how they were created nor how a county moved from one to the other. In December, he closed all restaurants with no warning or data to justify the decision. He occasionally “loosens” his strict restrictions, but is never transparent about how or when he may be willing to grant us a return to normalcy.

The deceptive phrasing of the ballot questions reflects how Wolf has acted throughout the Covid-era. He has rarely been transparent. He has rarely been candid, accessible or accountable. 

Sadly, the state courts have not protected us. Worse yet, the partisan Pa. Supreme Court made the legislature powerless to stop or limit Wolf.

So, it’s left to us. Whether you vote early by mail or in-person on May 18, vote yes on all ballot questions. It is a vote for common-sense, democracy, your livelihood and, liberty! #VoteYESpa

Guy Ciarrocchi is the President & CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry. Find them @ChescoChamber

2 thoughts on “Guy Ciarrocchi: Why this May’s primary ballot will not be boring”

  1. i absolutely agree we need to vote yes on these 2 questions—GOV WOLF HAS CLEARLY DEMONSTRATED his desire to govern as a dictator—whoever is elected in the future should not have total authority to do what wolf has done–

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