Burns votes to limit length of governor’s emergency powers

Change would require legislative approval after 21 days

EBENSBURG, Jan. 27 – After voting 30 times to open local businesses, including five times to end the governor's COVID-related shutdown, state Rep. Frank Burns today voted in favor of requiring legislative approval for any emergency declaration lasting beyond 21 days.

Burns, D-Cambria, based his H.B. 55 vote on the belief that such declarations by the governor should not be endlessly unilateral – and that the unique situation presented by COVID-19 demanded clarification in state law.

“COVID-19 has proven far more long-lasting than a major snowstorm or flood, which is the type of emergency traditionally associated with such declarations,” Burns said. “With a unique crisis that’s projected to impact all corners of our Commonwealth for a year or more, it makes sense for the legislature to have some say.”

During debate on the bill Tuesday, Burns voted to support an amendment that would have protected a person’s right to carry a firearm during a declared emergency. Despite the amendment’s defeat, Burns remains a staunch defender of Second Amendment Rights.

The joint resolution supported by Burns contains the same language the House adopted last year. If it makes it through the process swiftly enough in coming months, the proposal could be put before voters in this year’s primary election, giving them the chance to vote on amending the state Constitution to make the change.

“I’m frustrated by consistently having to question the administration about its COVID-19 response and press for more details about the decision-making used in reopening Pennsylvania’s economy,” Burns said. “I believe making the legislature a bigger partner in long-lasting emergency declarations is a good and necessary change. We represent the people – and we should not be locked out of the process.”