Court Battles

Pennsylvania’s top court rejects GOP effort to end shutdown

Pennsylvania’s highest court found in favor of Gov. Tom Wolf (D) Wednesday, ruling the Republican-controlled state legislature did not have the power to end his coronavirus disaster declaration for the state.

In the 5-2 ruling, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said the GOP resolution does not qualify as a case where the legislature can do without the governor’s signature, and that without it, the resolution was a “legal nullity.”

The court’s Democratic-appointed majority also disagreed with the legislature’s argument that an earlier ruling in April served as precedent for proceeding without the governor’s signature.

In a separate opinion, Justice Kevin Dougherty concurred that the legislature cannot terminate the disaster declaration without Wolf’s signature, but said without any legal means of the legislative branch checking the executive, the entire emergency powers statute should be tossed.

“Once Section 7301(c) is stripped of the legislature’s intended safety valve, the severability doctrine instructs that — no matter how severe the consequences may be — the offending portion of the statute is non-severable,” he wrote.

The court previously declined to overturn Wolf’s order closing non-essential businesses in the state in May. Earlier the same week, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) filed a 43-page defense of the order.

“Applicants seek to upend the status quo and force Pennsylvania to prematurely reopen all business locations, regardless of public health data and contrary to the phased reopening currently underway based on that data,” he wrote.  

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Wolf signed a new order mandating that Pennsylvania residents wear masks when in public to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

“This mask-wearing order is essential to stopping the recent increase in COVID-19 cases we have seen in Pennsylvania,” he said in a statement.

Tags Coronavirus Pennsylvania Tom Wolf

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