Annual gathering of PA conservatives delivers hope, remedies for reclaiming constitutional rights

The 31st annual gathering this past weekend of Pennsylvania’s leading conservatives (virtual this year) under the umbrella of the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference (PLC) was at its core a public assertion of constitutional rights in the wake of the Wolf Administration’s seizure of those rights through a twisted application of the state’s emergency management law.

“Our constitutional balance of power in Pennsylvania has broken down,” said Lowman Henry, President of the Pennsylvania Leadership Council, Inc., which hosts the PLC. “We have a governor who is governing by executive fiat. We have an activist state Supreme Court that is legislating from the bench. The only control left on government is the voice of the people.”

“The PLC has always been the place where activists come together to learn about policy, train for activism, and network to build coalitions,” added Henry. “Now more than ever, this type of grassroots involvement is necessary to reign in elected officials who show no regard for the constitution or our rights, and who only value the raw exercise of their own power.”

Along the lines, the conference included interviews of key figures fighting in the General Assembly and the courts to restore our rights to work and to assemble, and it included six interactive panel presentations, which can be viewed on YouTube and PLC’s Facebook page: Reigning in the Big, Bad Wolf; Free Market Approach to Health Care; Competitive, Simple & Fair: The Trifecta for Comprehensive Tax Reform; Expanding Educational Opportunities; Combating Environmental Extremism; How Unions Keep Public Employees from Ending Their Memberships.

David N. Taylor, PMA’s President & CEO, interviewed Pennsylvania’s Speaker of the House, Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) who, working with Senate Republicans and Democrats in both houses, has sent the governor a parade of bills and resolutions that would allow Pennsylvania to reopen safely. The governor has vetoed them all – his actions reinforced by an activist, Democratic-controlled state Supreme Court.

“Governor Wolf’s action have only made a difficult situation much worse,” Taylor said. “Most troubling has been his lack of interest and willingness to interact with stakeholders, including the General Assembly.”

Wolf’s statewide shutdown has resulted in near economic ruin. Legislative budget analysts estimate a $4 billion to $5 billion shortfall in state revenues, a shortfall, that Cutler said, must be made up through “economic growth, not tax increases.”

Uncertain of the revenue picture back in the spring when the virus hit, the General Assembly approved a partial budget covering spending for schools. Lawmakers now must find a way to approve the rest of the balanced budget – a constitutional requirement – by the end of November.

There is hope for a way back to a new-normal. Two weeks ago, U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV ruled Wolf’s lockdown orders unconstitutional.

“The liberties protected by the Constitution are not fair-weather freedoms...in place when times are good, but able to be cast aside in times of trouble,” the judge wrote.

Longer term, the General Assembly should amend the Emergency Management Services Code that the Wolf Administration used to justify the statewide lockdown, and the commonwealth’s Disease and Prevention Act of 1955 that should have been activated to battle the pandemic, according to attorney and columnist, Marc Scaringi.

“What the governor has done is effectively declared every square foot of Pennsylvania a disaster area,” Scaringi said during the ‘Reigning in the Big Bad Wolf’ panel. “Under the Disease Prevention and Control Act, you can’t shut down entire businesses and can only quarantine those who have contracted the disease.”

Moving forward, Dr. Paul Kengor, of the Institute for Faith & Freedom at Grove City College, told conservative columnist John Gizzi, a perennial favorite at the PLC, that young people must be educated about what conservatism really stands for.

“What they get now from educators and the media is a caricature of what it means to be a conservative,” Kengor said. “What it really means is smaller government, and greater freedoms. Embracing not merely the past but time-tested values and ideal. They are right because they are true.”

Additional speakers at the conference included Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, former Senator Rick Santorum, and former Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny).

The 2021 PLC is only six months away, scheduled for April 16 and 17 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill, PA. Feature speakers for 2021 are conservative political commentator, Jesse Watters and former Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah.

Henry said that the hope is that the 2021 conference will be in-person event for 800 who normally attend each year.