Supreme Court ruling essentially turns Wolf into king of Pennsylvania
We won’t argue that Gov. Tom Wolf’s ultimate goal is to preserve life as we know it in the Keystone State. But it would be wise to keep a closer eye on the executive branch following Wednesday’s political decision by the state Supreme Court, which essentially cements Wolf’s status as a monarch and our state as a dictatorship.
The outcome is hardly a surprise — the court is more than 70 percent Democrat (and will remain so for at least another five years). The current court has made no effort to resist politics in several of its key decisions since the one-party takeover in 2015.
And we should have seen it coming. The Supreme Court couldn’t wait for the Commonwealth Court — where cases of this type are to be heard under our constitution — to rule, instead grabbing it away at the governor’s behest. Perhaps they were fearful the lower court would agree with the legislature’s interpretation of state law, allowing it to put an end to the emergency order Wolf issued in March and renewed last month.
Top Senate Republican Joe Scarnati, of Jefferson County, said in a statement the ruling “fails to uphold the constitutional balance of power between the three, co-equal branches of government.” Our own state Sen. Jake Corman, the majority leader, said, “The court has essentially granted the governor king status.”
Of course, his majesty already had declared that power to himself, as far back as March, when he instituted a highly politicized waiver program, picking and choosing winners and losers among the commonwealth’s business owners. And we all know by now whose family company was the first winner.
Not surprisingly, King Tom was ready to punish the state’s residents had the Republican-dominated legislature prevailed. In his eyes, they could only end the benefits that resulted from the shutdown — suspension of licensing requirements for health-care workers, for example, or the temporary moratorium on evictions and foreclosures — while he could use disease prevention laws to continue bankrupting those who just want to feed their families.
We, surely, can eat cake while our supreme ruler follows the advice of Rahm Emanuel, onetime adviser to President Bill Clinton: “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
If there’s a good thing in the court’s decision, it’s the fact that the majority did not rule on Wolf’s actions per se, only on the legislature’s failure to allow him to veto it (which, undoubtedly, he would have; although some Democrats supported the resolution, an override seems less than likely).
Not long ago, the legislature suggested a bipartisan task force involving all branches of government. It was a great idea. And had Wolf’s sceptre landed on that one, none of this would be going on.
But that means he’d have to be a plain old governor, not a feckless ruler.