PA Primary Election Ballot Question Guide & Position Statement

The upcoming May 18 Primary Election offers voters four ballot questions that deserve your review. Below you will find our Lancaster Chamber Position Statement on the questions. You can also review a guide to help with context around each question and what it means.

The Lancaster Chamber Position Statement on Ballot Questions:

The Lancaster Chamber Board of Trustees has reviewed the questions and is recommending a “YES” vote for all as it is in the best interest of the business community and the Commonwealth as a whole. Read the full position statement here.

Educational Guide To Ballot Questions:

All voters will have the opportunity to be heard on four questions that will be on the May 18 primary election ballot. If you are registered as an independent or other third party not typically eligible to vote in the primary election, you are entitled and encouraged to vote on these questions.

Three of the questions are Constitutional amendments and one is a voter referendum. Amending the Constitution is a process reserved entirely for the people of Pennsylvania. Every amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution since 1790 has been put before the people for their approval. It is in your hands to determine how your government should function.

Context For First Two Ballot Questions Below:

The first two questions relate to the duration of future disaster emergency declarations under legislation approved by the General Assembly. Senate Bill 2 proposes to amend the state Constitution regarding disaster declarations in two ways: limiting emergency declarations by a governor to a maximum of 21 days without legislative approval and clarifying that a concurrent resolution terminating or extending a disaster emergency declaration does not need to be presented to the governor for his signature. Below you will find the exact way the questions will be presented on the ballot and an overview of what a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ vote means.

Ballot Question #1: (related to emergency declarations)

Question:

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law and increase the power of the General Assembly to unilaterally terminate or extend a disaster emergency declaration — and the powers of Commonwealth agencies to address the disaster regardless of its severity pursuant to that declaration — through passing a concurrent resolution by simple majority, thereby removing the existing check and balance of presenting a resolution to the Governor for approval or disapproval?

What Your Vote Means:

  • ‘YES’ VOTE: Supports this amendment and would change the law to allow the General Assembly to terminate at any time or extend a disaster emergency declaration through a concurrent resolution approved by a majority of the members of the House and Senate, without requiring the Governor’s approval.
  • ‘NO’ VOTE: Opposes this amendment and allows the Governor to continue emergency declarations and to veto resolutions terminating emergency declarations, even if a legislative majority votes to end them. It would maintain that a two-thirds legislative vote would be required to override the veto.

(Read the full ‘Plain English Statement’ here under Proposed Constitutional Amendment – Article III, Section 9.)

Ballot Question #2: (related to emergency declarations)

Question:

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to change existing law so that: a disaster emergency declaration will expire automatically after 21 days, regardless of the severity of the emergency, unless the General Assembly takes action to extend the disaster emergency; the Governor may not declare a new disaster emergency to respond to the dangers facing the Commonwealth unless the General Assembly passes a concurrent resolution; the General Assembly enacts new laws for disaster management?

What Your Vote Means:

  • YES’ VOTE: Supports this amendment and limits the duration of a Governor’s emergency declaration to 21 days (from 90 days), unless otherwise extended, in whole or in part, by a concurrent resolution approved by the General Assembly.
  • ‘NO’ VOTE: Opposes this amendment and means the Governor, alone, can extend emergency declarations without a legislative vote.

(Read the full ‘Plain English Statement’ here under Proposed Constitutional Amendment – Article IV.)

Ballot Question #3: (unrelated to emergency declarations)

Question:

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended by adding a new section providing that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of an individual’s race or ethnicity?

Context:

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. This new section would better align the Pennsylvania Constitution’s language on this issue with the U.S. Constitution.

What Your Vote Means:

  • ‘YES’ VOTE: Supports adding language to the state constitution that prohibits the denial of rights based on an individual’s race or ethnicity.
  • NO’ VOTE: Opposes adding language to the state constitution that prohibits the denial of rights based on an individual’s race or ethnicity.

(Read the full ‘Plain English Statement’ here under Proposed Constitutional Amendment – Article I).

Ballot Question #4: (unrelated to emergency declarations)

Question:

Do you favor expanding the use of the indebtedness authorized under the referendum for loans to volunteer fire companies, volunteer ambulance services and volunteer rescue squads under 35 pa.c.s. § 7378.1 (relating to referendum for additional indebtedness) to include loans to municipal fire departments or companies that provide services through paid personnel and emergency medical services companies for the purpose of establishing and modernizing facilities to house apparatus equipment, ambulances and rescue vehicles, protective and communications equipment and any other accessory equipment necessary for the proper performance of the duties of the fire companies and emergency medical services companies?

Context:

To strengthen fire and EMS services in Pennsylvania, the General Assembly passed House Bill 1673, which became Act 91 of 2020. The bill contained key provisions including improvements to grant and loan programs for fire companies, new measures to support recruitment and retention of fire personnel and a ballot question to expand the existing “Emergency Services Loan Assistance Fund” to include municipal fire departments. 

What Your Vote Means:

  • ‘YES’ VOTE: Supports expanding the state’s loan program for volunteer fire companies and ambulance services to include municipal fire companies and EMS services.
  • ‘NO’ VOTE: Opposes expanding the state’s loan program to municipal fire companies and EMS services.