by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In Pennsylvania, the business community is challenging Democratic governor Tom Wolf’s executive overreach amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Pennsylvanians’ year-long calls for lawmakers to limit Wolf’s emergency powers have resulted in a historic ballot referendum, which would amend the state’s constitution and restore checks and balances if passed. Voters will be presented with that opportunity during the May 18 primary next month.
Since his initial restrictions last March, Wolf has vetoed at least twelve bills that lawmakers crafted to reopen the economy. He also enacted an uneven, opaque waiver process to determine which “life-sustaining” businesses could stay open. The Wolf administration has refused to release “exactly what criteria it was using to consider applications, or explain to applicants why waivers were granted or denied,” according to Spotlight PA.
Though Wolf has postured himself as an advocate for senior citizens who were most vulnerable to COVID-19, he has hindered lawmakers’ efforts to save essential senior-housing construction projects. Indeed, last spring, Wolf’s veto of a state senate bill to reopen the construction industry — based on federal guidelines — signaled that his pandemic response would prove chaotic. Wolf eventually relented to legislative pressure, but his initial executive actions delayed the completion of crucial senior-housing projects during the crisis. …
… Though it was the governor who acted unilaterally while resisting legislative efforts to help businesses, the Wolf administration crafted the ballot referendum’s wording as if the opposite were true. “The language is disingenuous. It is meant for it to be defeated,” Democratic state senator Lisa Boscola told The Morning Call. “The worst thing about it is it creates fear.” The challenge for supporters is to transcend the skewed language that the Wolf administration is attempting to coerce onto the voting public.