Veto Override Vote On Governor’s Emergency Declaration Fails

On September 2nd, in the wake of Gov. Tom Wolf’s quiet renewal of the COVID-19 related emergency declaration, the House took up a motion to override the governor’s veto of legislation that would have ended the declaration. That motion failed by a 118-84 vote – 16 votes shy of the two-thirds needed. Nine Democrats voted with Republicans on the attempted override.

House Resolution 836 passed the General Assembly in July. The resolution aimed to revoke the emergency declaration and the Wolf Administration’s gradual county-by-county phase-in plan for re-opening the state’s economy, in favor of re-opening businesses in accordance with federal law and requiring adherence to health and safety guidance issued by the state and the Centers for Disease Control. Lawmakers contended that the General Assembly had the authority to end the state of emergency declaration; while the Wolf Administration countered that the state Constitution only affords the Executive the authority to issue and later terminate a disaster emergency. While legislative leaders filed their case to the Commonwealth Court, the governor appealed to the state Supreme Court – which has a Democratic majority – and the Supreme Court ruled that H.R. 836 didn’t end the emergency order because it was never presented to the governor for a signature.

With the House’s failure to garner the two-thirds vote required, the Governor’s veto has been sustained.