Op-ed: On May 18th, Pennsylvanians can declare Independence from Wolf’s Unilateral Orders

Pennsylvania is the birthplace of freedom. It was in Independence Hall in Philadelphia where our Founding Fathers gathered to debate and sign the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution – two of the greatest political documents ever written. The aims of these meetings were to protect the people of our great nation against the tyranny of an oppressive government and to ensure that future generations could walk as free people.

These incredible documents have stood the test of time for more than 200 years. However, we are now faced with an overbearing government threatening to control every aspect of our lives and steamroll the freedoms given to us by God.

Governor Wolf has exercised unprecedented authority during the COVID-19 crisis to shutter small businesses, declare essential and non-essential jobs, shutdown schools, impose unilateral restrictions on commerce, keep people in their homes, spend public resources without the approval of the people, and restrict the very freedoms we hold dear.

In March 2020, we were told it would take “two weeks to flatten the curve.” Over one year later, many schools remain closed to in-person learning while restaurants and bars struggle to turn profits amid capacity restrictions.

The Governor’s measures have widened the gap between the haves and the have nots in our Commonwealth. Big Corporations were never forced to shut down and instead profited off the closure of their competition. Many high-earning white-collar workers were able to retain their jobs and adjust to a telework environment. Wealthy parents were able to place their children in private schools or hire tutors. Under Wolf’s powers, the rich became richer and the poor, poorer.

Meanwhile, we see the many empty storefronts in our communities that used to be home to small businesses. Many blue-collar workers, service industry employees, and low-income earners are still looking for work. Students from low income households, some without the means of high-speed internet, have fallen behind their peers in the world of virtual classrooms.

Last month, Governor Abbot of Texas made the decision to allow businesses in his state to open at 100% capacity and end its mask mandate. Not only has Texas not seen a spike in cases, it has seen a drop. Additionally, hospitalizations and deaths have also dropped precipitously over that same period. 

In Florida, Governor DeSantis likewise took a different approach from Governor Wolf during the pandemic. DeSantis followed the science by protecting those in nursing homes and prioritizing the vulnerable for care and PPE distribution. He re-opened businesses and schools well before Pennsylvania. In September 2020, he lifted all capacity restrictions on small businesses and required all school districts to offer in-class instruction.

The comparable results could not be starker. Florida’s economic output in 2020 shrank by only about 3% while PA’s shrank by 4.4%. The unemployment rate in Florida is 4.7% compared to PA’s 7.3%.

Even with stricter shutdown orders throughout the pandemic, Pennsylvania still has higher COVID deaths per capita than Florida. Sadly, Pennsylvania is in the top 10 for deaths per capita in the entire US.

Wolf’s unilateral orders did heavy damage to our state. On May 18th, voters can send a message.

Pennsylvanians can protect their personal freedoms at the polls by voting in favor of ballot questions that would restore the balance of power between the Executive and Legislative branches of government and ensure the voice of the people is heard. In plain language, a YES vote on questions 1 and 2 means:

  1. The General Assembly can reign in the governor’s power during an emergency to protect the rights of Pennsylvanians.
  2. The Governor would be prohibited from maintaining unilateral control for an indefinite period during an emergency.

The ballot questions would not prevent a governor from declaring a state emergency in the commonwealth. Instead, it limits the length of emergency declarations and requires the governor to work with lawmakers to respond to emergencies appropriately. This prevents one branch of government from wielding unlimited power over an extended period of time. That is exactly the situation we find ourselves in today – a situation our forefathers sought to prevent.

Governor Wolf is pulling every dirty trick in the book to maintain his grasp on power, including wording the ballot questions in a deeply confusing and blatantly prejudicial way that is intended to deceive voters. Know what you are voting for and what is at stake when you go to the polls this spring. Honor our Founding Fathers and the principles to which they pledged their lives and their fortunes. More importantly, protect your own lives from future abuse of power at the hands of a governor.