Jan. 28, 2021

HARRISBURG - Rep. Rich Irvin (R-Huntingdon/Centre/Mifflin) this week voted in favor of legislation that would amend the Constitution to change the state’s emergency declaration provision to ensure emergency declarations only last 21 days and need legislative approval to continue thereafter. 

Under House Bill 55, a declaration could be extended beyond 21 days with approval of the General Assembly. Currently, a governor’s emergency declaration can last up to 90 days and be renewed by the governor indefinitely.

“The governor still would be able to declare emergencies, as is sometimes necessary to quickly free up state resources to respond to immediate situations,” said Irvin. “However, once the 21-day period is over, the General Assembly should have a voice in what further needs to be done and for how long. Case in point, under Gov. Wolf Pennsylvania is currently in month 10 of a COVID-19 emergency declaration and year four of an opioid crisis emergency declaration, without any input from the General Assembly on how best to handle these situations. We need to start working together for the good of all Pennsylvanians.”

In order to amend the state Constitution, identical proposals must be approved by both the House and Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions. Once that occurs, the proposal is placed on the ballot for consideration by the voters. Today’s vote marks the second time the bill has passed the House. The ballot question could appear as soon as the upcoming May 18 primary.

In addition to the change regarding emergency declarations, the bill also proposes two additional amendments that would appear as separate questions on the ballot. They include prohibiting the denial or abridgement of equality of rights on the basis of race and ethnicity by adding it to the Declaration of Rights section of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and clarifying that a resolution terminating or extending a disaster emergency declaration need not be presented to the governor for signature.

House Bill 55 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Representative Rich Irvin
81st Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact:  Tricia Lehman
RepIrvin.com / Facebook.com/RepIrvin