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GOP: Wolf is trying to sabotage ballot question

HARRISBURG (AP) — Republican leaders of Pennsylvania’s Legislature said Wednesday that Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is trying to sabotage ballot questions to amend the constitution to shift authority over the length of emergency declarations from governors to lawmakers.

The measures arose from Republican lawmakers’ strident disagreement with how Wolf, a Democrat, has handled the coronavirus pandemic.

In a news conference, Republican lawmakers said Wolf’s administration purposely wrote the questions with wording designed to scare voters into rejecting them.

“We respect the voters, we think they’ll see through it, they’ll understand it and we hope to do our best to educate them on it,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre.

Wolf’s office said the wording in the ballot questions “fairly, accurately and clearly apprise the voter of the issue to be voted on.”

The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the proposals heading to the ballot. Wolf opposes them, but governors have no power to prevent proposals to amend the constitution from going on the ballot for voters to consider.

Courts have nearly unanimously backed Wolf’s use of emergency powers to impose social-distancing restrictions, close buildings or limit business activity during the pandemic. Wolf’s administration maintains that the proposed amendments will not affect those powers. because they rest on the state’s Disease Prevention and Control Act.

The questions are scheduled to appear on Pennsylvania’s May 18 primary ballot.

Corman and House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff issued statements, reproduced below in full.

Said Corman:

“The ballot language for consideration by the voters is written in a way that shows the Wolf Administration wants these measures to fail. Contrary to how the questions read, the General Assembly will not be able to act unilaterally. We will have to work in concert with the Executive Branch in order for policies to be passed. It also alleges checks and balances will be lost. Let me be clear — there are no checks and balances right now. We have totalitarian power ruling many aspects of our lives including the openings of employers and our schools.

“The questions are written in a way to scare voters away. But I trust the voters of Pennsylvania. We are going to take the questions to them and give them the background. We are going to work to educate our constituents on why — no matter how it is worded — this referendum needs to pass. We will provide voters with the information to make an intelligent decision. I’m confident that once the people learn the real initiative behind the amendment they will vote ‘yes’ in order to restore checks and balances back to Pennsylvania.”

Per Benninghoff:

“Mismanagement. Incompetence. Politics. These three things have permeated the Wolf administration’s handling of Constitutional amendments and even the basic functions of government. This is a Commonwealth of, by, and for the people. Not one person, not one governor. Unfortunately, Gov. Wolf has been, and is continuing to use, the power of his office to prohibit Pennsylvanians from having a fair shot at amending their own Constitution. It is abhorrent. It is shameful. And, frankly, Pennsylvanians deserve better.”

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