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Vote no on limiting the governor’s emergency powers

Mike Hanna Sr.

Lock Haven

Our legislators are asking us to vote to limit the governor’s emergency powers during times like this pandemic. The need for strong executive action to quickly address COVID has proven effective with Pennsylvania ranking better than all but 11 states in the number of COVID cases per 100,000 people.

Strong and quick executive action has also proven effective around the world. So if you agree that a strong executive is the best way to respond to an emergency then vote NO on the first two constitutional amendments and there’s no reason to read any further.

If however you’re still not convinced then consider this: Our democracy has a constitution based on separation of powers. The governor, the legislature and the judiciary each have their own enumerated powers as well as the responsibility of ensuring that neither of the other branches leaves their designated responsibilities. So in the proposed constitutional amendment which branch is leaving their lane? Clearly implementing actions to protect the public health and safety is an executive power. It’s the very definition of executive authority. The legislature’s lane is to enact policy for the executive to implement.

Let’s see what happens when we allow the legislature to infringe on executive authority. I urge you to take a second look at the Spotlight PA article found in Friday’s Feb. 19 Express. The article clearly shows how the legislatures implementation of the Federal Cares Act funding resulted in Pennsylvania renters and property owners losing out on $96 million in much needed help. Because the legislators did not consult with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (which is ordinarily the case) the legislation was written “so tight, so many hoops, one might think it was designed to fail” said Robin Wissman, Executive Director of PHFA.

Renters testified to a legislative committee they were being required to prove income loss even though they were part of the Pennsylvania unemployment system already. Many of their landlords would not participate in the program because of its limitations. One landlord said, “we reached a dead end, it appears this program is not designed to help people like my tenant in the most vulnerable population who is living week to week.”

Similarly because of overly restrictive legislative provisions the mortgage program ended with over half its money not being spent. I don’t think anyone could believe there wasn’t a housing assistance need during this pandemic induced economic downturn. The committee hearings gave the legislature an opportunity to fix the problems and they failed to do so. The article says that as a result the $96 million, intended to help people being thrown out of their homes, went instead to fill PA budget gaps in the Department of Corrections budget. So much for legislative ability to carry out executive actions.

The article goes on to say, new funding coming from the federal government for the same needs, if left unspent because of overly restrictive PA regulations, will be taken back and distributed to other states. PA can’t afford the proposed constitutional amendment to limit the executives constitutional powers to act in the case of emergencies. Vote NO on these constitutional amendments.

(Mike Hanna Sr. is a retired PA legislator)

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