HORSHAM, PA — A handful of state lawmakers are calling on their colleagues to approve legislation that would allow Gov. Tom Wolf to extend his disaster emergency declaration that came about due to the recent damage from remnants of Huricane Ida.
State Rep. Todd Stephens, R-151, and fellow Republican State Rep. Shelby Labs of Bucks County said the proposal is needed after the two recently toured storm ravaged sections of Upper Dublin and Horsham Townships.
House Resolution 139 is a concurrent resolution, which means it would have to be passed in both the Pennsylvania House and Senate. The bill was referred Wednesday to the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, which meets when the General Assembly reconvenes this coming Monday, according to Stephens’ office.
A legislative vote is now required for the governor to extend an emergency declaration after voters earlier this year approved a constitutional amendment limiting a governor’s disaster declarations to 21 days. Legislators must now approve a governor’s request to extend any declaration beyond that timeframe. A simple majority in both the House and Senate is required.
“It’s clear we must extend the declaration to ensure residents and business owners can access the assistance they need to recover,” Stephens said in a statement. “Rep. Labs’ bill to extend the emergency declaration, which I am co-sponsoring, is exactly what the voters wanted when they changed the Pennsylvania Constitution. Pennsylvanians want and expect us to work together with the governor for the betterment of the people of Montgomery County and the Commonwealth.”
Stephens was part of a contingent of state and local officials who accompanied the governor on a tour of Upper Dublin and Horsham back on Sept. 3, two days after Hurricane Ida caused widespread damage in the region.
Both communities experienced flooding and wind damage due to heavy rains and a strong tornado that came through the area. Upper Dublin was hit particularly hard, with the tornado ripping the roof off of the local municipal building.
“The damage to the homes, schools and businesses was so extensive it will take weeks, if not months, until everyone is whole,” Rep. Labs said in a statement. “With the governor’s emergency order set to expire, it is the Legislature’s responsibility to extend it to fully allow residents and local businesses the time to assess and apply for all the financial help they are entitled to.”
Stephens hosted fellow lawmakers from the House Republican Policy Committee on a tour Wednesday of the storm-damaged areas in his district, according to his office.
“While many areas of the state experienced some flooding due to Ida, it was especially severe in the southeast region of the Commonwealth,” House Republican Policy Committee chair Martin Causer, R-Cameron/McKean/Potter, said in a statement. “The area was also hit by a tornado, leaving many downed trees and buildings with their entire roofs torn off. The damage is extensive.”
Wolf declared a state of emergency due to the storms back on Aug. 31.
Stephens and Labs were joined in their legislative proposal by Reps. Wendi Thomas, R-Richboro; Todd Polinchock, R-Chalfont; Eric R. Nelson, R-Greensburg; and Zach Mako, R-Northampton.
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