By Rep. Anita Kulik
The people of Pennsylvania had the opportunity on May 18 to finally have their say on how emergency situations should be handled on the state level. Although only a quarter of eligible voters cast ballots, the constitutional amendment questions, regarding the administration of emergency powers, passed.
The two proposed amendments, regarding how to handle emergency circumstances like the pandemics, will limit a governor’s authority during disaster declarations. The house and senate will now have a say in how an emergency is managed, from the duration of the declaration to what steps are taken to control situations. There was great discord across the commonwealth on this issue, as businesses were shut down without explanation and families were told to stay at home.
School shutdowns and the inability to stay in contact with loved ones in nursing homes became great personal issues to many, the latter to me as well. The inability for small businesses to open while big box stores thrived were more points of contention. Offices were shut for weeks, and state offices had to be closed, impacting the ability of my staff and me to handle important matters such as unemployment claims. The lack of transparency from the administration not only frustrated citizens but also many of us in the Legislature who could not get answers.
While normal matters that my staff and I handle continued to require attention, the unemployment system breakdown further exacerbated the problems facing people.
Pennsylvania has now become the first state to approve, by vote, limitations on its administration in times of emergency. While the votes on these measures were aimed at the current governor, these measures will be in place for all future administrations, regardless of which party holds the majority. The effects of these amendments will not be readily evident, but will slowly come into focus through further debate, legislation and court decisions.
The primary election has left many important votes for the fall general election. There were no clear winners for the Court of Common Pleas races. Only two candidates won on both the democratic and republican ballots, and, because of the way our current ballots are presented, these candidates are not assured of a November victory. Sixteen candidates remain on the ballot for November, vying for an historic nine open seats for the Court of Common Pleas. This accounts for approximately one quarter of the seats on this court and the outcome will determine the face of the court for years to come.
Appellate court and Magisterial court races, as well as municipal and school board races, look to create changes come November. Despite the low voter turnout, it was, overall, an interesting primary election. Look for a lot of campaigning in the coming months as candidates work toward the general election.
With COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, look for municipalities, booster groups and other organizations to ramp up on summer and fall events. As I write this article, I am looking forward to various events that will be held on Memorial Day, a day on which we can take time to show our appreciation for those that paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
When I recently attended the “grand opening” of Robinson’s beautiful new playground, I had the chance to learn of all the wonderful activities planned in that township, just as there are many public events planned in Carnegie and Coraopolis and throughout our local communities.
Local pools will be reopening, and we can look forward to many events and activities as we approach a return to normalcy. Be sure to check websites for a listing of all the wonderful things being planned, from farmer’s markets to fireworks, from fairs to sidewalk sales.
Supporting local organizations and small businesses this summer will make a world of difference to these people as they work to get back to normal.
If you are planning on getting out and enjoying the warm weather, my office can supply you with information on state parks and safety tips for being out in the woods or on the waterways.
You can also check the sites for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Fish and Boat Commission for further information. As always, please feel free to reach out to me for assistance on any state matters.
A Kennedy resident and attorney, State Rep. Anita Kulik has served the 45th district of Pennsylvania since 2017.