By State Sen. Ryan Aument (R-36) and Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-100)
The abuse of executive power by both parties and at all levels of government must stop. The recent unprecedented increase of these executive orders not only concentrates too much power into the hands of a single person, but it also effectively silences the voice of the people and stifles freedom.
Pennsylvanians are all too familiar with the seemingly endless, heavy-handed orders pushed on us all by the Wolf Administration throughout the pandemic. Forced shutdowns and business closures, mask mandates, and capacity limits crippled our economy, set our school-aged children back in their development and learning progress, and exacerbated many pre-existing societal issues like the opioid epidemic, suicide rates and homelessness.
At the federal level, both the Trump and Biden administrations have been widely criticized for their historically increased reliance on the use of executive orders to push through partisan policies instead of working with Congress to pass a more collaborative product.
We shouldn’t govern this way at any level of government. Regardless of party and regardless of the policies enacted, this abuse of executive power is unacceptable.
Policies of this magnitude should be passed through a more thoughtful, deliberative and collaborative process that’s controlled by more than a single person in the executive branch. They should be debated, examined, and exposed to public scrutiny, not unilaterally imposed on residents without warning or authorization.
Unfortunately, administrations from both parties and at both the state and federal level have abused their executive power in recent years, with unprecedented increases in the number of executive orders that purport to have the force of law. The Wolf Administration alone has issued 52 executive orders to date, compared to an average of just over 16 executive orders by the prior four administrations.
The people rightfully expect their government to work efficiently, effectively and collaboratively. The founders set up our system with checks and balances and a separation of powers to ensure that our God-given freedoms cannot by infringed upon by the government. We must fight to preserve this system and the freedoms guaranteed within it.
For that reason, we are proposing limitations to a governor’s power to issue executive orders and regulations. These proposals would restore the balance of power by limiting an executive order that purports to have the force and effect of law to 21 days unless extended by the General Assembly and reestablishing the General Assembly’s authority to disapprove regulations.
Many have argued that these proposals are purely partisan – a Republican attack against a Democratic governor. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
These proposals are an effort to recalibrate our government to work for the people instead of concentrating too much power into the hands of one person, whether that person be Republican or Democrat.
Further, since these proposals are constitutional amendments, they cannot be approved without a vote by the people of Pennsylvania and wouldn’t even take effect until after the current administration is out of office.
Others have argued that the historically disproportionate increase in executive orders is appropriate considering the administration needed to quickly respond to and address the once-in-a-lifetime health crisis we’ve endured. However, only two of the Wolf Administration’s 52 orders were related to the pandemic. This increase is not about ending the pandemic at all; rather, it is a power grab by the administration and an attempt to circumvent the will of the people through unilateral, unchecked action. No administration, regardless of party, should be able to have this much power.
We believe these proposals are essential to a properly functioning government with a healthy system of checks and balances. Limiting unilateral action by any single branch of government will help to restore the voice of the people and place the power back in their hands where it rightfully belongs.
Representative Bryan Cutler
100th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives