SUNBURY — State Sen. Gene Yaw said Wednesday that a judicial ruling that came out of the western district of Pennsylvania, which said many of Gov. Tom Wolf's mitigation efforts — including shutdowns — were unconstitutional, "may not actually apply here.
"We are in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and the ruling probably does not have statewide application," said Yaw, R-23, Williamsport, during a meeting with The Daily Item editorial board. "I think it is indicative of things that people have been saying for months now. That just because there is a sickness out there, or we are facing some tough times, that doesn't suspend the constitutional rights that people have."
Yaw was interviewed as part of The Daily Item’s pre-election coverage. He is opposed in state Senate District 23 by Democrat Jackie Baker.
While Wolf said he was going to appeal the decision, Yaw isn't sure he will do that. "The place to go is the Third Circuit, which would cover all of Pennsylvania. There is legislation out there covering all of these issues. But right now, I don't know what the governor is going to do."
Late Wednesday, Attorney General Josh Shapiro filed a brief asking for an order to keep crowd-size limits in place while the administration appeals U.S. District Court Judge William Stickman’s decision
Yaw has cautioned local officials that the ruling made in western Pennsylvania is probably not applicable here. "No, I don't think it is."
The meeting also covered topics such as the pandemic, and the state's response to it, access to broadband, energy production and the environment.
About how state leaders, such as Wolf and state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, responded to COVID-19, Yaw said, "the biggest concern in my district was the shutdown."
Yaw said his constituents' main complaint has been "why doesn't the governor treat us like adults? And I agree with that. People are responsible. They don't go out and overly be in contact with one another. I've been to numerous events where there have been large crowds, and it was managed well. People stayed apart. Maybe we should be a little bit more flexible in what we are doing.
"I also get the feeling sometimes that the governor and Dr. Levine are not listening," he said. "They don't know what is really going on in the real world."
Yaw also questioned the accuracy of reporting data on COVID cases, "and where it comes from." Deaths that occur in a place like Philadelphia could be attributed elsewhere, depending on the deceased's identification or driver's license, he said.
Meanwhile, broadband is the number one issue in the 23rd District, Yaw said. "We are not doing enough. We need to do more. In parts of my district, like Sullivan and Bradford counties people are saying 'how do we educate our kids?' But it's not only education. What has been brought to the forefront as a result of COVID-19 is the importance of telemedicine."
One impediment to broadband in rural areas is the cost of things, Yaw said.
About energy and the environment, Yaw said Pennsylvania can maintain its leadership role as an energy producer and maintain a healthy environment. "We've done it," he insisted. "Pennsylvania has reduced greenhouse gases by about 25 percent since 2005. (The) industry has done it on their own. I have said I have nothing against nuclear power, solar or wind energy."
Yaw believes the state should have a diverse energy portfolio. "Pennsylvania probably has the largest collection of environmental resources of any state in the country. "We have gas, coal, solar, wind, hydroelectric, thermal and wood," he said. "We should look at all parts of all industries, and then see what should be done."