HARRISBURG, PA — Governor Tom Wolf issued the following statement in response to the House GOP’s plans to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution:
“I strongly oppose giving the legislature the power to gerrymander our justice system. This constitutional amendment is just another effort by Harrisburg Republicans to prevent the will of the people from being heard by stopping all Pennsylvanians from having a voice in selecting judges for the highest courts in the state.
“Just a few years ago, I joined five former Pennsylvania governors from both parties in calling for merit selection for statewide appellate judges. That is how we can ensure the most qualified judges are handling appeals in the commonwealth. With this constitutional amendment, the legislature is instead calling for a process that will guarantee more partisanship in our justice system.
“If HB 38 ultimately becomes law, Pennsylvania would join only two other states that elect Supreme Court Justices in partisan districts elections, and the only state that gives legislators a free hand to manipulate district boundaries. Harrisburg Republicans are trying to take the right to pick judges away from their constituents and insert partisan politics into the judicial system.
“This hyper-partisanship from Harrisburg Republicans has to stop. In recent days they have deliberately spread misinformation about our elections, flagrantly defied orders by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, attempted to rig the rules by which we select judges simply because Pennsylvania’s voters have not elected their preferred candidates to the bench, and now are renewing their efforts to undermine my ability to respond to a disaster emergency.
“HB 55 would hinder our ability to respond quickly, comprehensively and effectively to a disaster emergency by requiring any declaration to be affirmed by concurrent resolution of the legislature every three weeks. This would force partisan politics into the commonwealth’s disaster response efforts and could slow down or halt emergency response when aid is most needed.
“A disaster response could be hamstrung by lack of action by the legislature (or by the disaster itself, if it were severe enough to stop the legislature from meeting) and the executive branch would have no certainty that disaster response measures put in place would remain past this short, arbitrary deadline.
“This is the latest in a long line of efforts by Harrisburg Republicans to undermine the current COVID-19 disaster declaration, after every one of them voted to end the disaster emergency last session but were unsuccessful. So, now they are attempting to amend the Constitution to get their way.
“Premature termination or non-renewal of the current COVID-19 disaster emergency will be disastrous for the commonwealth. It will undo all of the progress that has been made in combatting the spread of COVID-19 and saving the lives of Pennsylvanians and put the commonwealth in a poor position to address another resurgence.
“If the House GOP is successful, Pennsylvania would be the only state without some type of emergency in place for COVID 19, and could lose out on federal funding for businesses and individuals in future COVID-19 relief packages.
“The Pennsylvania Constitution is the cornerstone of our democracy. Indeed, the Republicans’ effort demonstrates that we need to rethink the very way that our Constitution is amended. No political party should control when and how our governing charter is changed. The citizens of the commonwealth should have that direct power. Make no mistake, these actions are thinly veiled power grabs and an attack on the other branches of government and on democracy itself, and I will oppose these efforts through every means possible.”
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