On May 18, Pennsylvania voters narrowly approved two proposed amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution that will impact the current COVID-19 governmental response efforts as well as future statewide responses to other emergencies. The amendments, collectively, will likely bring an end to the state’s concentrated COVID-19 disaster response as Pennsylvanians have known it since the initial onset of the pandemic.
After discovering the first cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania last year, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency on March 6, 2020, to enable him to exercise certain emergency powers to help facilitate the state’s disaster response. Over the following months, Wolf’s executive orders regarding stay-at-home measures and business restrictions met significant resistance from the Republican-led Pennsylvania General Assembly. This resistance led the General Assembly to pass bills designating certain industries as “life-sustaining” (such as gun stores), and in June 2020, the General Assembly even voted to terminate the state of emergency entirely, both times being met with a gubernatorial veto pen.