A Lebanon County representative says he will introduce legislation in Harrisburg on Monday curtailing a Pennsylvania governor’s authority to order a state of emergency.
“My bill is a first shot at fixing the Emergency Services Management Code before we get into another disaster,” Republican state Rep. Russ Diamond, representing the 102nd District in Lebanon County, said in an email Monday afternoon.
However, he said, “it will not have any impact on our current situation, as we are prohibited from enacting retroactive laws.”
Diamond posted the text of his bill proposal on his Facebook page Monday morning, hours before speaking at a rally outside the State Capitol to protest the statewide shutdown for COVID-19.
“We will be reining in the emergency powers of any future governor,” Diamond said on Facebook. “Never again.”
The bill, which does not yet have an official number, would amend Title 35, which addresses health and safety in the commonwealth.
Diamond’s proposal would change a provision in the law that says “no state of disaster emergency may continue for longer than 90 days unless renewed by the Governor.”
Diamond’s amendment alters that passage so that “no state of disaster emergency may continue for longer than 45 days unless renewed by concurrent resolution by the General Assembly.”
The section also states that the General Assembly “by concurrent resolution may terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time.”
Diamond said he would be introducing the bill proposal on the House floor later on Monday.
“After this is over, we’ll need to prevent any future governor from doing anything this drastic ever again,” he wrote on Facebook. “This is my first offering at changing Pennsylvania’s Emergency Management Services Code to accomplish that. Under this legislation, no governor could extend a disaster emergency longer than 45 days without EXPLICIT approval from the General Assembly.”
Diamond noted in an email that the bill “is only in draft form.” He said he is “waiting on the Legislative Reference Bureau to convert it to the proper presentation format for introduction.”
Many of Diamond’s followers on Facebook voiced enthusiastic support for the bill. Here is a sampling of the comments on his post:
Shawn Shepler: “45 days is still absurd! Should be no more than 14 max.”
Jeff Ney: “However well-intentioned you are about this he’s just going to veto it. He’s going to veto anything that takes away his power. We have three more years of this nonsense. Why didn’t you do this when Corbett was governor when he said he would sign any reform legislation that the Republican legislature sent him.”
Tim Trexler: “It’s already not legal. All it would take is for people not to follow false mandates. But people are lemmings and don’t question authority.”
Keith Kepple: “This farce needs to end now. It’s fairly obvious that the infected to fatalities ratio is extremely exaggerated by false numbers. This is a grand attempt to swat the November elections. Please, please vote to open PA back up.”
Joe Devine: “After this is over, shouldn’t we take some time, look back at what happened, thoroughly study how things evolved, seek expert direction, gain consensus, and then think about changes that might need to be made?”
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