Pa. House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, left, and Gov. Tom Wolf.
Pa. House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, left, and Gov. Tom Wolf.

A week after Pennsylvania primary voters ratified two constitutional amendments limiting the governor's disaster authority, legislative Republicans are pressing ahead to put those limits into action.

On Monday, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre/Mifflin, introduced a resolution to end what he called "the most devastating portions of Gov. (Tom) Wolf's initial emergency disaster declaration."

The resolution would end the state's expanded no-bid contracting authority related to the coronavirus pandemic, and end the administration's ability to order occupancy limits, business closures and stay-at-home orders.

It also would reinstitute work search requirements for unemployment compensation, which had been waived during the pandemic, although the Department of Labor and Industry separately said Monday the requirements would resume July 11.

Benninghoff's resolution was under discussion Tuesday morning by the House State Government Committee.

The amendments approved in May 18's primary allow the legislature to rescind a disaster declaration by majority vote; and limit declarations to 21 days unless the legislature by majority vote approves their extension.

In a statement, Wolf, a Democrat, called the resolution "a discouraging development" and contended the legislature does not have the powers the Republican caucus claims for it.

“First," he said, "the legislature is taking this prior to the certification of the election. Without this certification, the constitution has not actually been amended.

"Second, the legislature is attempting to terminate specific actions that are not set forth in the disaster proclamation including occupancy limits, stay at home orders, and business closures."

Those orders are "separate and apart" from the disaster declaration, so the amendments don't give the legislature authority to end them, Wolf said.

The Wolf administration has already relaxed Pennsylvania's occupancy limits, and they are scheduled to end altogether on Memorial Day.

The exception is the state's mask mandate: The Wolf administration says unvaccinated Pennsylvanians must continue to wear masks until statewide Covid-19 vaccination reaches 70%.

Tim Stuhldreher