Jan. 28, 2021

HARRISBURG - Rep. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery) today voted with the majority of her colleagues in the House to pass legislation that would 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 with approval of the House and Senate. Currently, a governor’s emergency declaration can last up to 90 days and be renewed by the governor indefinitely.

“A balance of power is essential for government to function properly,” said Pennycuick. “The state’s senators and representatives, who were elected to represent the people of their districts, need to have a say in whether emergency declarations need to continue after a 21-day period. With unchecked emergency declaration power, Pennsylvania is currently in month 10 of a pandemic emergency declaration and year four of an opioid crisis emergency declaration, without any input from the General Assembly.

“Rest assured, 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 Pennycuick. “This proposed constitutional amendment would simply limit the length of emergency declarations and include the General Assembly in the process via concurrent resolution to determine if an emergency declaration should be extended.” 

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 Tracy Pennycuick
147th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Tricia Lehman