Pennsylvania residents have been living under the COVID-19 disaster emergency declaration and subsequent mitigation orders for more than a year.
During that time, many students and their families have had to transition to hybrid or fully online learning. People in nursing homes and long-term care facilities have had little opportunity to visit with their loved ones. Countless businesses have closed their doors forever and a half million jobs have been lost.
Recognizing the serious impacts of the decisions made during the COVID-19 pandemic, I voted to give you a voice in how the state handles future disaster emergency declarations in the form of two proposed constitutional amendments that will appear on Tuesday’s (May 18) primary election ballot. You can watch my short video about the ballot questions here.
Please take the time to learn more about the questions and make your voice heard. All registered voters, regardless of party affiliation, are eligible to vote on these questions.
Additional Ballot Questions: Declaration of Rights, First Responder Funding
In addition to the proposed constitutional amendments regarding emergency declarations, voters will also have the opportunity to weigh in on two additional questions at the ballot box on May 18.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment About Individual Rights
If approved by voters, this amendment would add a new section to Article I of the Pennsylvania Constitution creating a constitutional prohibition against restricting or denying an individual’s equal rights under Pennsylvania law because of race or ethnicity.
Importantly, both federal and Pennsylvania civil rights statutes already prohibit discrimination based on race, as well as color, ancestry and country of origin, which together often constitute an individual’s ethnicity. However, the Pennsylvania Constitution currently lacks any explicit protection for race or ethnicity.
This question is in no way related to the Equality Act currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress, which would amend civil rights statutes to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It relates only to adding a new section to better align the Pennsylvania Constitution’s language on this issue with the U.S. Constitution.
The proposed amendment also has no possible effect on immigration policy or deportation proceedings. Federal law preempts state law in this context.
First Responder Funding
If approved by voters, this referendum would extend an existing loan program – approved in a previous statewide referendum – to include municipal fire departments and ambulance companies that are staffed with paid personnel rather than volunteers. The loan fund, first established in the mid-1970s to support volunteer emergency response organizations, is self-sustaining. It provides 2% interest loans to help fire and ambulance companies upgrade or expand fire stations, or purchase emergency vehicles or equipment.
To read the full text of the questions as they will appear on the ballot, click here.