High court rejects PA governor's request to fast-track lawsuit to fight Republican legislation

Wolf denied lawsuit aimed at legislation bundling a constitutional amendment on abortion with unrelated proposals

Pennsylvania's highest court on Monday rejected a request from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that it immediately take up his challenge to Republican legislation that has bundled a constitutional amendment regarding abortion with four unrelated proposed changes.

In turning down Wolf's request, the justices said he was free to file a legal action before the lower-level Commonwealth Court. The amendments could go before voters as early as May.

Wolf filed the legal action in late July, arguing that bundling together the measures in a bill before the politically divided Legislature violates a constitutional rule against passing laws that address multiple, unrelated topics.

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The proposed abortion amendment would say the state constitution does not guarantee any rights relating to abortion or public funding of abortions.

Abortion rights and voter ID laws are two of many controversial issues addressed in the Republican legislation that PA Gov. Tom Wolf is trying to block. Pictured: Wolf gives speech at the Pennsylvania Conference For Women at Pennsylvania Convention Center on Nov. 19, 2015, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Abortion rights and voter ID laws are two of many controversial issues addressed in the Republican legislation that PA Gov. Tom Wolf is trying to block. Pictured: Wolf gives speech at the Pennsylvania Conference For Women at Pennsylvania Convention Center on Nov. 19, 2015, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Pennsylvania Conference for Women)

The other amendments would require voter ID, have gubernatorial candidates choose their own running mates, enable lawmakers to cancel regulations without facing a governor’s veto and set up election audits.

The two chambers, both with Republican majorities, voted mostly along party lines to advance the package of five amendments. If the General Assembly passes them again in the session that starts in January, they will go before voters as five separate referendums. The primary is scheduled for May 16.

Jason Gottesman, spokesman for House Republicans, said they "continue to believe it's constitutionally sound." Wolf press secretary Beth Rementer said the governor's lawyers were reviewing the four-paragraph order.

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Wolf has called the abortion-related amendment part of Republicans’ campaign to "dismantle access to abortion and implement a radical agenda."

The Supreme Court currently has five Democratic and two Republican justices.