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Burns says Wolf provided few answers

Lawmaker voted for bill to end emergency orders

Republican lawmakers continue to contest Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s control of society’s reopening from the coronavirus shutdown.

The latest effort is an attempt to craft a weapon that would be held in reserve.

It’s a resolution proposed by Rep. Russ Diamond of Lebanon County that would allow the General Assembly to terminate Wolf’s COVID-19 disaster emergency “if the need arises,” according to a news release from Diamond.

Cambria County Democratic Rep. Frank Burns supported the resolution in the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, dissenting from his party peers, “in a tough, but necessary vote in order to let the full House” consider the resolution, Burns wrote in a news release.

“I hope this gets the governor’s attention, and he begins to work more seriously in collaboration with members of the legislature,” Burns wrote. “The governor has so far provided few answers and little transparency.”

“I offer this resolution not because I believe there is no cause for a unified statewide response to COVID-19, but because I believe the General Assembly, as a co-equal branch of government, should be prepared to act quickly on all contingencies as this situation continues to unfold,” Diamond wrote. The governor’s actions have “left much of Pennsylvania’s citizenry confused and frightened, and blindsided our business community,” he added.

The state’s Emergency Management Services Code defines the governor’s authority to declare a disaster emergency, but also provides that “The General Assembly by concurrent resolution may terminate a state of disaster emergency at any time,'” Diamond’s news release states, quoting the code. After such an action by the lawmakers, “the governor shall issue an executive order or proclamation ending the state of disaster emergency,'” he continued, again quoting the code, thus suggesting that the governor must comply with the lawmakers’ action.

That interpretation seems less clear based on the initial paragraphs of the code section titled “Declaration of disaster emergency,” which reads, “The state of disaster emergency shall continue until the governor finds that the threat or danger has passed or the disaster has been dealt with to the extent that emergency conditions no longer exist and terminates the state of disaster emergency by executive order or proclamation. …”

Wolf didn’t seem worried during a conference call with reporters Thursday.

“I have the power to disapprove, and I intend to,” he stated, adding that if the declaration were to be eliminated, the state would need to repay millions of dollars in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds.

Burns on Thursday was seeking “assurances that Pennsylvania won’t be stripped of future federal funding if the legislature takes that strong action,” he wrote.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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