(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday that his administration will fight a legal ruling this week that rejected some of the restrictions imposed on state residents and businesses in the fight against COVID-19.
Speaking a day after a federal judge threw out restrictions on the number of people who can gather at events and rejected the administration’s power to unilaterally shut down businesses, Wolf cited the fact that two other judges had supported his position.
“There’s no sense debating a ruling that will be appealed,” he said in a news release. “Two of three federal judges upheld what we did. But what’s not up for debate is that our early and decisive action saved lives.”
Many of the restrictions that were affected by Monday’s ruling are no longer in effect anyway as they were lifted during the course of the state’s phased reopening. But Wolf had reserved the right to reimpose them if he judged that the virus was spreading in large numbers again, and he vowed to fight aggressively to retain the powers he has used as part of his pandemic emergency order.
“I will continue to do what is necessary to keep people safe and contain the virus,” he said. “That’s the key. Containing the virus is the only way to protect our health and keep our economy going. We will appeal, and we will take that appeal as far as necessary to ensure we can do that.”
The ruling by Judge William Stickman was hailed by state Republican lawmakers and by President Donald Trump, who retweeted a number of posts Monday that linked to articles covering the decision.
A number of policy and advocacy organizations in Pennsylvania also hailed Stickman’s decision. The Pennsylvania chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, for instance, argued that Wolf had created an “uneven playing field.”
“Big-box stores were allowed to remain open where so many people would be in close proximity, yet small retailers selling the same goods who said they could follow all safety guidelines were forced to remain shut down,” NFIB Pennsylvania Director Gordon Denlinger said in a statement. “No one argues over the importance of protecting public safety, but we never heard a clear explanation from Gov. Wolf about the rationale behind his decisions on forcing businesses to close or severely restricting their operations. … The worst part is that it killed livelihoods, the dreams and hard work of a lifetime for small business owners, and put many of their employees out of work.”
The Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank based in Harrisburg, wrote that the ruling showed that Wolf was not above the Constitution.
“It is disappointing to hear that Gov. Wolf will appeal the decision rather than respect the clear, decisive, and correct arguments made by the judge,” Charles Mitchell, president and CEO of the foundation, said in a statement. “The small business owners who have suffered, the millions out of work, and the communities wondering how they’ll recover deserve to know that the turmoil this spring – caused by the administration’s shutdown orders – will not happen again.”