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Better Balance Needed Between Safety And Ability To Earn Living

We hope the U.S. Supreme Court chooses to hear oral arguments in a case involving two Warren County businesses’ fight against Gov. Tom Wolf’s business closure order.

The businesses ask a question regarding gubernatorial power that deserves a national answer.

To quickly recap, the case was brought by five entities, including the Blueberry Hill Golf Club and the Caledonia Land Company of Clarendon, after Wolf ordered the closure of all non-life-sustaining businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state Supreme Court sided in favor of the state and the business closures.

While the U.S. Supreme Court has denied an application for a stay of the order, it has yet to act on a Writ of Certiorari, or cert petition, the businesses also filed asking the nation’s highest court to hear the case. Four Pennsylvania counties have now filed an amicus curie, or friends of the court, brief supporting the Warren County businesses.

The counties argue that the actions of Wolf and Pensnylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine have “substantially restricted the rights of its citizens,” citing four specific amendments — the first, fourth, fifth and 14th.

“The governor decided by fiat what was life-sustaining and what was not life-sustaining,” the counties assert. “The governor offered no guidance relative to the proclamation, and did not see fit to submit such classification to the General Assembly for guidance and approval. What is more, the classifications imposed by the Governor are shocking when one considers the similarity of the business activity between some life-sustaining business activity and some non-life-sustaining business activity.”

The counties make an argument that sounds eerily familiar to those of pro-business groups across the country, including New York state. What are the limits of gubernatorial power when it comes to depriving business owners and their employees of their ability to earn a living? Should there be a better balance between safety and the ability to earn a living? Should legislative action be required rather than simply creating executive orders?

These questions should be answered nationally.

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