Engraved by the steps of the Capitol in Harrisburg is a quote from Benjamin Franklin stating “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
This famous quote reflects where Pennsylvania is today. It is time to restore our civil liberties and individual freedoms.
Unfortunately, the state’s Supreme Court recently sided with Governor Wolf, in refusing to uphold the legislature’s recent termination of the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration.
As a result, the General Assembly recently presented House Resolution 836 to the Governor, as required by the court.
What happens next?
We are expecting a veto – no surprise from a Governor who has wielded historic autocratic power during a time of crisis.
The Governor has 10 days to make a decision on the resolution. Even though the Senate is in session this week, we are not expecting a prudent decision. And why should we? We have not seen the Governor consult with lawmakers at any time over the past four months of the pandemic.
There are supposed to be co-equal branches of government. But not in Tom Wolf’s world.
Lawmakers must take action. Enough is enough.
Following the veto, for any override to occur, a two-thirds majority vote would be needed in both the Senate and House. In the Senate, that means 34 votes, while 136 would be required in the House.
Yes, it is an uphill climb, but it’s time for lawmakers to do the right thing, instead of blindly following the flawed policies of the Governor and his failed Secretary of Health.
Even if the General Assembly officially terminates the existing Emergency Declaration, there is nothing preventing the Governor from issuing another declaration. It would be no different than the ongoing opioid crisis…the Governor has extended that 90-day declaration a total of 10 times, with the most recent extension occurring May 22.
Many lawmakers would have no issue with this approach, as long as the Governor’s flawed mitigation policies are removed from the equation.
Those flawed policies include, but are not limited to:
- The color-coded system for counties (no one from the administration has been able to consistently and effectively answer questions about the colors);
- The business waiver program (the Governor has not released any details about what protocols – if any – were used to determine winners and losers); and
- The ongoing mask debate. Governor Wolf has acknowledged that he is not a lawyer. No wonder he is unable to answer specific questions about his unilateral, unenforceable mask edicts.
The Governor recently opined that we are “moving into a new normal…into a post-infectious disease world” and believes this will not “be the last infectious disease we face.”
Additionally, the Governor predicted that we are “probably going to have to act differently…we’re probably going to have to wear masks…and exercise social distancing…we’re all trying to figure out what the new world looks like.”
“We will do everything we can do to make it as comfortable and as much as the old normal as possible,” said the Governor.
Sadly, the Governor wants us to become “comfortable” with yielding our civil liberties.
It is very disconcerting to hear the Governor talk about Pennsylvanians being “comfortable” with government intrusion in our lives.
I am not “comfortable” with the government dictating what we can and cannot do, and make no mistake about it, that is how the Governor has handled the Emergency Declaration.
Do not go to church, do not celebrate Easter with your family, do not congregate, do not continue your education, do not undergo a hip replacement procedure, do not go to work and earn a living for your family, do not engage in real estate activities, your business is allowed to remain open but yours is not – the list goes on.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman may have said it best, when he reacted:
“When I read that, it shook me to my core…and it should shake you to your core, that the government – the government! – should do everything it can to make you comfortable, with giving up your civil liberties,” said Leader Corman.
Yes, it should shake you to your core.
As long as the existing Emergency Declaration remains in effect, the government will continue to dictate and rule supreme over your lives.
Your civil liberties – which I defended for 30 years as part of our US military – will continue to be trampled upon and overlooked. But don’t worry, the government will try its best to make you “comfortable.”
As part of COVID-19 mitigation efforts, Pennsylvania needs to move forward in a responsible manner, not under the existing draconian mandates.
As always, I am willing to work with the Governor and his administration, as I’ve said from Day One. However, the legislature has not seen that type of reciprocation.
The Governor’s failed Health Secretary believes the state’s Disease Prevention & Control Act of 1955 – which is severely outdated and does not reflect current health practices – gives the Wolf administration the power to implement closure, isolation and quarantine orders.
Sure, the 65-year-old law allows the administration to apply closure, isolation and quarantine procedures impacting the sick…not the healthy!
There is no doubt about it, there were a lot of questions when COVID-19 arrived in our state. Mainly, there was fear, and coupled with the unknown, Pennsylvanians complied with staying home.
But unemployment grew and our healthcare facilities remained empty.
What was the point of extending this Emergency Declaration for another 90 days? We flattened the curve. Pennsylvanians did everything we were asked to do, and more.
We will have more challenges moving forward and unanswered questions will remain.
We know the virus could spike again. Also, we know that as more tests are taken, the numbers will rise.
But the legislature can work with the Governor in resolving those issues, just as we’ve always promised.
It is time to work together and move our state forward. Pennsylvanians are tired of the bondage.
It is time to restore our civil liberties. We need to override a veto.
Senator Mastriano represents the 33rd District in the Pennsylvania Senate. The District includes Adams County and parts of Franklin, Cumberland and York counties.