Constitutional Crisis Threatened by Legislation on Assessments
Members of the state House of Representatives have voted nearly unanimously to order a moratorium on court ordered re-assessments, unless they are being done voluntarily.
Here’s the problem. How can the House, for all intents and purposes, vacate a
Supreme Court ruling based on a constitutional issue? The Court has ruled
Allegheny County’s system is unconstitutional and must be fixed in line with
Judge Wettick’s May 2008 order.
If the Legislature wants to change the Uniformity Clause provision of the PA
Constitution, it has an amendment process it can use. Until then it seems logical
that a Supreme Court ruling based on that clause must be carried out as
expeditiously as possible to stop the unconstitutional favoritism the system is
imposing on Allegheny County property owners with some folks suffering irreparable financial harm by having to pay more taxes than they should have to pay. They can never get that money back.
It appears a constitutional crisis is in the offing. If the House bill becomes law and there is a lawsuit-which is inevitable and probably before the ink is dry-it will go straight to the Supreme Court where it be will declared unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable. Then what?
One can hope the Senate will steer well clear of this legislation. It is simply unimaginable that Congress would pass a law telling states they do not have to enforce Miranda rights or that they can ignore Roe vs. Wade with impunity if they so choose. Or more recently the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the District of Columbia’s prohibition of the lawful ownership of firearms in the home as unconstitutional: what would state legislators say if Congress passed a law telling Pennsylvania it could ignore the Supreme Court decision on second amendment rights and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh proceeded to pass a DC type prohibition on personal gun ownership?
The legislative branch cannot be allowed to overturn Supreme Court decisions, especially those based on the Constitution. The precedent, if allowed to stand, would throw Pennsylvania into chaos as far as the separation of powers is concerned. Courts serve a clear and vital function as a check and balance on the other branches of government. If their power to issue enforceable rulings and judgments is taken away, the legislative and executive branches will have destroyed the balance of power and woe betide the Commonwealth when that happens.