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Voters to decide how the state will respond to future emergencies

Ballot decisions will amend Pennsylvania's constitution if approved

A sign outside the Mount Joy Borough Offices directs voters on Nov. 3, 2020.

Kate Landis / WITF

A sign outside the Mount Joy Borough Offices directs voters on Nov. 3, 2020.

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Airdate: Monday, May 10, 2021

Voters in the May 18 primary will have a unique opportunity to decide how Pennsylvania will respond to state-wide emergencies in the future.

Two ballot measures are seen as a response to the Wolf administration’s mitigation measures to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Republican legislators are frustrated with having no input to the blanket state-wide shutdowns that paralyzed some businesses and led to wide-spread unemployment.

Currently, the governor gets 90 days to mobilize the state’s resources, adjust regulations, and get federal help under an emergency declaration. Governor Wolf has extended the declaration combatting COVID-19 four times.

If the two ballot measures are approved by voters, the Governor’s response would be limited to three weeks before having to take further actions to state lawmakers to weigh-in. Support for both ballot measures are split down party lines.

Pennsylvania Speaker of the House, Representative Bryan Cutler, a Republican serving Lancaster County and Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, a Democrat representing Allegheny County, appear on Smart Talk Monday to lay out their case to voters.

Pennsylvania May 18, 2021, ballot measures:

Pennsylvania Question 1, Legislative Resolution to Extend or Terminate Emergency Declaration Amendment: Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law and increase the power of the General Assembly to unilaterally terminate or extend a disaster emergency declaration—and the powers of Commonwealth agencies to address the disaster regardless of its severity pursuant to that declaration—through passing a concurrent resolution by simple majority, thereby removing the existing check and balance of presenting a resolution to the Governor for approval or disapproval?

Pennsylvania Question 2, Emergency Declarations Amendment: Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law so that: a disaster emergency declaration will expire automatically after 21 days, regardless of the severity of the emergency, unless the General Assembly takes action to extend the disaster emergency; the Governor may not declare a new disaster emergency to respond to the dangers facing the Commonwealth unless the General Assembly passes a concurrent resolution; the General Assembly enacts new laws for disaster management?

Legal action may force Harrisburg to take action against sewage flowing into Susquehanna River

The Harrisburg city’s water authority has allowed human waste to flow into the Susquehanna River for decades.

Now, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper and Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Integrity Project are seeking to join a legal process that requiring Capital Region Water to take action.

Brett Sholtis is a WITF’s Transforming Health reporter and he’ll appear on Smart Talk Monday to talk about the legal action and other efforts to curb river pollution.

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