Pa. Republican legislators challenge wording of upcoming ballot question

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Republicans in Harrisburg say the Pennsylvania Department of State is playing politics with the way it has written a ballot question for the upcoming election this spring.

There are two ballot questions, which basically ask how long can an emergency declaration by the governor last before he or she has to get the OK from the state Legislature.

The vote would change the state Constitution. It’s already over the first set of hurdles, passing both the House and Senate in two separate sessions. Now, they go on the ballot for voters to decide.

But Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman questions the way the Department of State wrote the referendum.

“They clearly wrote it in a way for it to fail. Clearly, I mean, there’s no question about it,” he said.

The ballot question asks if the state Constitution should be amended to increase the power of the General Assembly to decide if an emergency declaration should be extended or ended with a simple majority, “thereby removing the existing check and balance” of getting the governor’s approval.

“It’s clearly slanted to scare the voters a little bit,” said Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to say to the governor, ‘No, you can’t extend the state of emergency.’ It means we’re going to have a seat at the table and we’re going to know exactly what’s happening.”

Corman added it’s not about taking power away from the governor, but rather restoring the balance of power.

The other question would reduce the current 90-day declaration to 21 days.

A spokesperson for Gov. Tom Wolf said the wording of the referendum is fair and accurate.

Below are the three ballot questions:

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?


Ballot 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?


Ballot Question #3


Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended by adding a new section providing that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of an individual’s race or ethnicity?


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