Butler Eagle - Standing before the state Capitol steps and calling Gov. Tom Wolf's actions during the pandemic “tyrannical,” state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-12th, introduced an apparently unique political maneuver to cease the governor's emergency powers.
Metcalfe announced his introduction of a “declaration of suspension,” basing the terminology and methodology on a state constitutional clause that states only the Legislature — or a power acting on the its authority — can suspend laws.
It wasn't immediately clear how the declaration would take effect, but other legislators said they were pleased at the creativity.
“I'm heartened by this move from Rep. Metcalfe to use the constitution as our defense,” said Rep. Doug Mastriano, R-33rd.
The declaration says it would suspend Act 323 of 1978, or the Emergency Management Services Code, and that it would take effect when signed by a majority of representatives and senators.
Metcalfe said the declaration is a continuation of the Legislature's ongoing efforts to impede Wolf's wielding of emergency powers under that code.
In July, the state Supreme Court ruled the general assembly's previous attempt — a resolution calling for the governor's disaster declaration to end — was null.
“We have been attempting, as a Legislature, to return a balance of power and defend the constitution and defend the rights of our citizens,” Metcalfe said.
The representative, whose district includes much of the southwestern swath of the county, pointed to a document released as part of Butler County's lawsuit against the governor and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine as evidence the pandemic mandates were “tyrannical.”
That document, a previously confidential agreement between the state and Carlisle Fairgrounds in Cumberland County, gave the 82-acre grounds permission to hold a spring car show, at which crowds far exceeded the 250-person limit.
Metcalfe is a plaintiff in that lawsuit, along with Fayette, Greene and Washington counties, several county politicians and local businesses.
Calling Wolf's edicts under the emergency powers an “insulting denigration of the rights of the people,” Metcalfe drew inspiration from the 1776 Declaration of Independence as inspiration for this new move.
“Just as our forefathers did in the Declaration of Independence, we lay out the violation of our constitution, the state law, historical precedent and Wolf's abuse of executive power, all of which are unseen, unprecedented, in modern times,” he said.
Rep. Frank Ryan, R-101st, said the pandemic showed the clear and present dangers present in the state's current laws, such as that with the invocation of emergency powers that was evidently unable to be overturned by legislative resolution.
“We're telling the governor today that this is a commonwealth of the people, by the people and for the people,” Ryan said.
As the announcement was concluding, rain started to fall in Harrisburg, prompting the present legislators to sign the declaration in Metcalfe's office.
“It's a sign from God, we need to sign this declaration,” Rep. Russ Diamond, R-102nd, said of the rain. “I'm going right in to sign it.”