HARRISBURG – The state House put off a vote on a resolution that would have extended a part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 declaration until October because the state hasn’t certified the result of the May 18 primary election.
Voters approved two constitutional measures during the primary – one that would allow the General Assembly to end emergency declarations by a simple majority vote and another that would limit emergency orders to 21 days unless the General Assembly approves an extension.
Tuesday is the 21st day since the primary.
Counties have 20 days to certify their election results and when those are completed, the state certifies the result, said Wanda Murren, a Department of State spokeswoman. That 20-day deadline was Monday, but “at least one” county just completed its certification, meaning there is a five-day period to deal with any appeals, said Lyndsay Kesinger, a spokeswoman for Wolf.
Both Murren and Kensinger said that the earliest the certification process will be completed is Friday.
“Without the certification of the election, the constitution has not actually been amended,” Kensinger said.
Under House Resolution 106, sponsored by House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, all of the mitigation orders put in place by the governor would be barred.
Wolf lifted all mitigation orders on May 31, with the exception of the mask mandate – impacting those who aren’t fully vaccinated. The mask mandate is due to be lifted by June 28, unless the state hits the governor’s goal of fully vaccinating 70% of the adult population before then, Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam announced last month.
A vote on HR 106 had been scheduled for Monday in the state House, but that vote was postponed because the election results hadn’t been certified, said Jason Gottesman, a spokesman for Benninghoff.
“We are continuously examining the legal and practical implications of HR 106 and how that interplays with certification and wherever that may happen,” Gottesman said.
Through Monday, 55.7% of adults in the state have been fully-vaccinated and 72.1% of adults have gotten at least their first dose, according to CDC.
House Resolution 106 would have kept in place the emergency declaration’s provisions needed to ensure that the state doesn’t lose federal funding.
When the House state government committee voted on May 25 to approve HR 106, Democrats on the committee objected based on the fact that it was premature to act on the plan before the election results had been certified.
However, some Republicans had objected based on the fact that the proposal keeps a portion of the emergency declaration in place.
State Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, said that when people went to the polls on Tuesday, they voted for a plan they thought would end the emergency order.
“They didn’t vote to end this in October,” he said.