There are a number of ways in which the socialist/Democrat Left is especially adept at advancing its policy agenda. Chief among them is giving nice sounding, but totally misleading names to their initiatives. As a result they are able to rally support that would not be there if the true nature of the policy were widely known.
For example: the “Affordable Care Act,” commonly known as Obamacare, has been anything but affordable and was a major step toward their ultimate goal of a national single payer health care system. Most recently, the “American Rescue Plan Act” purporting to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a vehicle for funding a wide ranging Left-wing wish list.
Here in Pennsylvania the Left is employing that tactic to mislead the public on the impact of two proposed state constitutional amendments that will appear on the May primary ballot to restore checks and balances to the process of declaring emergencies.
Governor Tom Wolf’s flagrant abuse of his emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic has made the amendments necessary. Wolf has used his emergency powers to decimate the state’s economy, causing many small businesses to shut their doors and forcing hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians onto the unemployment rolls.
State law clearly gives the legislature the power to curb such excess, but a state Supreme Court dominated by activist justices beholden to the governor and Big Labor essentially re-wrote the law allowing Wolf to veto any measure passed by the legislature designed to place a check on his powers.
A system of checks and balances is core to our American system of government. That is why the Founding Fathers divided power between three branches of government with the intent that the legislature would enact laws, the executive would enforce/administer the law, and the judiciary would interpret the law.
In Penn’s Woods that system has broken down. Governor Wolf has refused to abide by – or even consult and cooperate – with the legislature while the Supreme Court has resorted to rewriting the law. As a result, Wolf has governed by executive fiat and the power of the legislature has been emasculated.
To restore the balance of power the legislature has proposed amending the state constitution to restore what had previously been settled law giving lawmakers the ability to end a gubernatorial declaration of emergency. The process of amending the state constitution is complex: the proposed amendment had to be approved by two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly – which it has – and now must be approved by voters in a statewide referendum.
That brings us to the Left’s latest rhetorical misdirection. It falls to the Pennsylvania Department of State to write the wording of the actual question to be placed on the May primary ballot. The department is under the control of the governor who is fighting hard to have the amendments defeated. As a result, wording of the question is complex, confusing, and totally misleading.
Wolf’s state department claims the wording “fairly, accurately and clearly apprise the voter of the issued to be voted on.” It does not. The wording makes it appear that the amendments would remove checks and balances, when in fact it restores checks and balances. The wording also employs the usual Left wing scare tactic by making it appear that the legislature would end such emergency powers “regardless of the severity” of the crisis, which is not the case.
State Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward pointed out recently that the ballot questions are “clearly worded to try and get voters to vote no.” Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman agreed. With a court challenge to the wording unlikely to succeed due to the political bias of the Supreme Court, he said proponents of the amendments would concentrate on voter education.
The Department of State has bungled a number of ballot issues most notably failing to properly advertise an amendment that would have expanded the window for child sexual abuse victims to file civil lawsuits. As a result of their ineptitude, that question will not appear on the May ballot. The department also improperly worded the so-called “Marsy’s Law” ballot question dealing with victims’ rights which resulted in that measure being voided by the courts.
Corman is correct in focusing on voter education. Voters need to know the proposed amendments are all about restoring not only the balance of power between the three branches of government, but in a larger sense restoring the rights and freedoms of every Pennsylvanian.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal and American Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected].)
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