Senate Asks Court to Force Governor Wolf to Release Business Waiver Documents

HARRISBURG – The Senate on Monday asked the state’s Commonwealth Court to force Gov. Tom Wolf to release documents associated with mandated business closures related to COVID-19 public health emergency, according to Senate Republican leaders.

In the court filing, the Senate asks the court to enforce the Senate’s subpoena that sought access to the records in order to examine if legislative action would be necessary to correct inequities, both as part of the ongoing pandemic, as well as for any future emergencies, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34) and Senator Mike Regan (R-31), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee that voted April 30 to subpoena the records.

The Senate is “clearly within its authority, the records demanded are sufficiently specific, and the records sought are reasonably relevant to its investigation of the waiver process overseen by DCED to exempt businesses from Governor Wolf’s March 19th closure order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the filing.

“…the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has consistently recognized that the legislative branch’s “power to investigate is an essential corollary of the power to legislate. The scope of this power of inquiry extends to every proper subject of legislative action,” the filing said.

The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee voted on April 30 to subpoena the documents following the March 19 closures.

In a letter responding to the subpoena, the governor says he cannot release the information to the Senate due to executive privilege and an audit being conducted by the state’s Auditor General at the request of the Senate.

The subpoena action followed a request via letter on April 24 letter from the Senate’s Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness and Community, Economic and Recreational Development committees asking for the documents that Wolf and the Department of Community and Economic Development denied.

list of all businesses granted exemptions posted to the Department of Community and Economic Development Web site Friday evening was only one piece of the information being sought by the Senate.

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