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Five Freedoms Campaign
Blog post submitted to DailyClout.io
This is a piece that might get published (in shorter form) at the blog at DailyClout.io, which is a citizen campaign toolbox company set up by Naomi Wolf to help citizens engage in government better, particularly at the state level.
The Five Freedoms of the Five Freedoms Campaign are:
No Vaccine Passports
No Mask Mandates
No Emergency Law
Open Schools Up 100%
Freedom of commerce, worship, petition
FIVE FREEDOMS IN PENNSYLVANIA - Citizen activism; background on Governor Wolf's executive orders; state and federal court cases; pending constitutional amendments and legislation in Pennsylvania.
By Katherine Watt
Information for those working on Five Freedoms campaign for Pennsylvania.
1. Citizen Action
Pittsburgh PA is one of the sites for the next worldwide "Rally for Freedom," following the March 20 worldwide event. The Pittsburgh rally will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday May 15 at Point Place Park. More information at Reddit.
Also, voters can vote to increase the General Assembly's power to check executive branch emergency powers at the primary election May 18, by voting "Yes" on Ballot Question 1 and Ballot Question 2. Details below at No. 4.
2. Governor Wolf's Executive Orders, state legislative challenges and state judicial review
On March 6, 2020, Pennsylvania's Democrat Governor Tom Wolf and Health & Human Services Secretary Rachel Levine declared a statewide state of emergency under the 1978 Emergency Management Services Code, 35 Pa.C.S. §§ 7101 et seq.
The 1978 EMS Code delegated power from the legislature to the Governor, allowing the Governor to make emergency declarations lasting up to 90 days, renewable by gubernatorial order thereafter. Governor Wolf renewed his original proclamation for another 90 days on June 3, 2020, and it is still in force today [following a fourth renewal signed on February 19, 2021.
Under the terms of the 1978 EMS Code, the state of emergency can be terminated either by the Governor, or by both houses of the General Assembly adopting concurrent resolutions.
However, when the General Assembly attempted to modify the terms of Governor Wolf’s orders through concurrent legislation in Spring and Summer 2020, and eventually tried to terminate the emergency declaration through a concurrent resolution, Governor Wolf and Secretary Levine simply ignored the legislation and continued enforcing the executive orders.
The conflict made its way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Wolf v. Scarnati, 104 MM 2020, which the heavily-partisan Democrat judges decided in Wolf's favor on July 1, 2020.
Governor Wolf and Secretary Levine primarily cited the 1978 EMS Code, and secondarily cited the 1955 Disease Prevention and Control Law, 35 P.S.A. Section 521.1 et seq.
This is important because the 1955 disease prevention law includes limits on the government's power, allowing the government only to "isolate" individual "infected persons or animals," and only to "quarantine... persons or animals who have been exposed to a communicable disease."
Further, the 1955 law limited the Health Secretary's power to "quarantine" people only for "a period of time equal to the longest usual incubation period of the disease."
By citing the 1978 EMS Code as their primary legal authority, Wolf and Levine managed the disaster not as a human health matter affecting millions of morally-autonomous and individually-subjective humans, but as a geographical contamination matter affecting objectified meat-sacks.
They created a statewide disaster zone that included every individual person's physical body, every private home and business, and every public facility, as if all were presumptively property subject to state control and contaminated by a virus, in the same way an area of land or water might be presumptively contaminated by radioactive particles in a nuclear disaster.
3. Federal Civil Rights Court Cases
These matters, among many others, have been raised by citizen plaintiffs in federal civil rights cases against Governor Wolf, including Benner v. Wolf, 20-CV-775, where a motion to dismiss has languished in the court of US District Judge John E. Jones III since Sept. 30, 2020, and Butler v. Wolf, 20-CV-677, where a Sept. 14, 2020 memorandum opinion by USDJ William Stickman IV -- finding Wolf's orders unconstitutional -- was appealed by Governor Wolf to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, docketed at 20-2936.
As of mid-April, both parties in Butler v. Wolf had filed letter-briefs arguing to the Third Circuit that the controversy is still live (not moot) and should proceed, but no further activity appears in the PACER database as of May 10, 2021.
In his Sept. 2020 ruling, Judge Stickman found Governor Wolf's orders unconstitutional. Judge Stickman acknowledged that in the early weeks of the outbreak in March 2020, while information was still being collected about the virus, heavy-handed precautionary orders made some sense.
But Stickman emphasized that six months along [now 14 months along], having arbitrary, unwritten, unilateral, unreviewable, unappealable orders in place controlling the daily movements of every Pennsylvania citizen, couldn't be reconciled with a constitutional republic that protects the individual liberties of Americans.
Judge Stickman's memorandum opinion included details that came out in discovery, about how the executive orders developed:
by task forces in Governor Wolf's office whose members have never been identified;
at meetings that were closed to the public and for which no minutes were kept;
establishing enforceable rules about essential and non-essential businesses which were amended at least 10 times;
based on criteria that were never written down;
that were never subject to legislative debate or ratification;
that virtually always favored big-box stores over small businesses;
that have no exit plan or end point;
and that were only appealable for a couple of weeks in late March, before the overwhelming number of waiver requests prompted the government to simply close the waiver process.
4. Constitutional Amendments on May 18, 2021 Primary Ballots
Pennsylvania legislators - majority Republican in both houses - tried to modify or roll back portions of Wolf's executive orders in Spring and Summer 2020, and successfully passed several measures by simple majority.
In each case, Governor Wolf and Secretary Levine ignored or vetoed the legislation, and the legislators were unable to get super-majorities to override the vetoes.
In May 2020, Senator Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) introduced a bill proposing two amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution that, if approved by Pennsylvania voters, would firm up the co-equal power of the General Assembly to manage governmental responses to public emergencies and reduce the power of the Governor’s executive branch to act as unilaterally and unendingly as it has during this crisis.
Senator Ward's bill successfully passed in both houses of the General Assembly during two consecutive legislative sessions (2019-2020 session and 2021-2022 session), and the two proposed constitutional amendments are on the May 18, 2021 ballots as Ballot Question 1 and Ballot Question 2.
Ballot Question 1 asks voters to amend Article III, Section 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution to add "termination or extension of a disaster emergency declaration as declared by an executive order or proclamation," to the short list of "concurrent orders and resolutions" on routine topics like adjournment, that can take effect upon approval by a simple majority, without need for the Governor’s signature and therefore without an option for a Governor’s veto and without need for a supermajority override.
Ballot Question 2 asks voters to add a Section 20 to the Pennsylvania Constitution, laying out procedures for "disaster emergency declaration and management" that limit the unilateral power of the Governor by limiting the first "emergency declaration" to no more than 21 days, and requiring any proposed extensions after that to be ratified by concurrent resolutions in the General Assembly.
5. Other proposed legislation
Pennsylvania legislators have proposed several other Covid, lockdown and vaccine-related bills, currently at different stages of committee review, including HB-262, the Right to Refuse Act, which would prohibit employers from requiring Covid-19 vaccinations for employees. The National Vaccine Information Center maintains a list of pending legislation, organized by state.