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Voters in Pennsylvania limit governor's emergency powers

Pennsylvanians chose to vote yes to adding a 21-day time limit to a governor's declaration of a state of emergency.

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — After speaking to reporters about his plans for charter school reform at GAR High School in Wilkes-Barre, Gov. Tom Wolf answered questions about the outcome of the primary election and why he thought Pennsylvanians chose to vote yes to adding a 21-day time limit to a governor's declaration of a state of emergency.

The governor must now go to the state legislature for an extension. Until this vote, there was not a limit.

"We had a long period to see how the current system works, and I think there was some thought that maybe we could do better, and so I'm looking forward to working with the legislature to figure out how we can make this work," said Gov. Wolf.

"I don't think he should have all that power, so I voted yes," said Al Kochanski of Glen Lyon. "Take it back to the legislators, and they listened more to the people than the governor."

Voters tell Newswatch 16 that the ballot question was their opportunity to give feedback to Gov. Wolf about his handling of the pandemic.

"I think everybody was sick of the way he was handling it. I myself also," added Kochanski.

Gov. Wolf says he didn't take the result as feedback.

"We had a chance to see how the system as it was in place worked over an extended pandemic. I mean, we've had hurricanes, snowstorms, and all that kind of thing before, but we've never had something like this, at least in my lifetime. So I think, you know, it was a great experiment, a great time to see how the system we had worked," said Wolf.

Newswatch 16 asked he thought having more than one person in charge of these emergency decisions could cause dangerous delays.

"I was concerned about that, but I think it's up for us to make this work. We have some new rules; let's make them work. That's what the citizens of Pennsylvania, voters, I think, actually, that was the message from last night. Let's make it work," answered Wolf.

These new amendments don't take effect until the election is certified, likely by early June.