Governor Wolf’s Proclamation of Disaster Emergency
Governor Wolf on March 6, 2020 issued a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency pursuant to Section 7301(c) of the Emergency Management Services Code (the “Code”). By law, the Proclamation cannot continue for more than 90 days unless renewed by the Governor. The Proclamation was set to expire on June 4th but was renewed by Governor Wolf on June 3rd for another ninety days and is now set to expire on September 2, 2020. On June 9, 2020, the Pennsylvania Senate and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives adopted concurrent resolution, H.R. 836, ordering the Governor to terminate the Disaster Emergency.
Governor Wolf requested that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court exercise its jurisdiction pursuant to its King’s Bench Powers and/or Powers to Grant Extraordinary Relief to declare H.R. 836 null and void. The Governor argued that the language in Section 7301(c) of the Code requires that the concurrent resolution be presented to him for approval in order for it to be effective. The Legislature argued that the language in Section 7301(c) compels the Governor to issue an executive order or proclamation ending the state of disaster emergency.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a split decision with the majority finding that the language in Section 7301(c) required presentment to the Governor for his approval or veto and without that presentment, H.R. 836 is a legal nullity. Justice Dougherty issued a concurring and dissenting opinion siding with the majority but finding that the language in Section 7301(c) could not be severed and therefore the statute was not salvageable. Justice Saylor issued a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Mundy, in which he held that the Constitution does not require presentment of the resolution at issue here.
On July 8th, H.R. 836 was formally presented to Governor Wolf. Governor Wolf has indicated he will veto the Resolution. It would take a vote by a two-thirds majority of each House to override the veto and that is unlikely.
This article is not legal advice and is provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.