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HomeHarrisburg Watch

The League of Women Voters has always advocated on behalf of ballot access, fair election law, and issues of transparency and good government.  In 2021, the LWVPA will focus advocacy on four issues in the Pennsylvania General Assembly:


The Lawmaking Process in the PA General Assembly


Before contacting your representatives about a bill you are following, it's important to understand the steps and common roadblocks in the legislative process.  Many times, your own representatives will not have the opportunity to vote for or against a bill because it is "stuck in committee,"  or because the Speaker of the House or President of the Senate will not bring it up for a vote.  

There are at least four places where a gatekeeper, always a member of the majority party, can single-handedly stop the progress of a bill.  There may be additional steps that extend the process.   If the bill involves spending, it has to be considered by the Appropriations Committee in each chamber.  If amendments are made, the bill has to return to its original committee to be reviewed again.  Each additional step adds another opportunity for a single gatekeeper to block the bill.  When this happens, you need to contact the gatekeeper in addition to your own representative.

Gatekeeper #1 

House Committee Chair


When an idea for new legislation is first developed, it is introduced by one or more legislative sponsors, assigned a number, like House Bill 38, and sent to one of several standing committees for review. These committees review the bill, and may hold hearings or gather information. Then they decide whether or not to support the bill. 

But Committee Chairs can refuse to consider the bill. In effect, one vote from the chair can defeat the bill at this stage.

Gatekeeper #2

Speaker of the House

 

If the bill makes it out of committee, the Speaker of the House may bring it before the chamber for debate and review... or may not. There are no rules or norms requiring the Speaker to bring a bill to the floor, even if it has broad bi-partisan support. This allows the Speaker of the House to stop any legislation he or she is opposed to.

The current Speaker of the House is

Representative Bryan Cutler

(717) 783-6424 


Gatekeeper #3

 Senate Committee Chair

 

When the bill is sent to the Senate, the same process plays out again. Again, the chair of the standing committee can simply set aside the bill, never advancing it out of committee.

The current President pro Tempore of the Senate is Senator Jake Corman  

(717) 787-1377 

Gatekeeper # 4

President pro Tempore of the Senate


If a bill makes it to the Senate, the President pro Tempore can unilaterally decide not to bring it to the floor for a vote, just like in the House.

Every state legislature follows the same basic committee review and floor vote process.  Pennsylvania is unusual because it gives so much power to such a small number of gatekeepers.  Fair Vote and the Bipartisan Policy Center give the PA legislature a fairness score of zeroThis is why Rules Reform is one of the legislative advocacy priorities of LWVPA.


   2021 Advocacy Priorities  
* Note:  To receive frequent updates and action alerts on priorities #1-3, join the Fair Districts PA Mailing List. 
Fair Districts PA is a project of LWVPA, and part of the LWVUS "People Powered Fair Maps" campaign. 
Fair Districts PA



Legislative Rules Reform 

 

The LWVPA supports reforms to the procedural rules in the General Assembly enacting best practices ensuring that all legislators have a voice, and collaboration is encouraged.  These best practices include guaranteeing a committee vote to every bill, and floor vote to every bill that makes it out of committee.   Legislation is still being developed to address Rules Reform in the General Assembly.  When this legislation is introduced, bill numbers and recommended actions will be posted here.



Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act (LACRA)

will be introduced as HB 22, SB222. 


LWVPA  strongly supports this bill, which would ensure transparency and accountability in the redistricting process.

 



House Bill 22 and Senate Bill 222 Current Status
Bills are being developed in both chambers and are currently looking for cosponsors.

cosponsor purple

HB22 is looking for cosponsors, and has not yet been introduced.  Rep. Wendi Thomas is the prime sponsor.
cosponsor blue

SB222 is looking for cosponsors and has not yet been introduced.  Sen. Lisa Boscola is the prime sponsor. 


The Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act (LACRA) will be introduced in both the House and the Senate, and will be in progress at the same time.
 

star yellow on lt blue (harrisburg) What action can you take?

  • Contact your state representative and ask them to join Rep. Wendi Thomas and cosponsor House Bill 22.
  • Contact your state senator and ask them to join Sen. Lisa Boscola and cosponsor Senate Bill 222. 
      
    Find Your PA Legislator

The gatekeepers: None at this time.


Election of Judges by Region

House Bill 38

 

The LWVPA strongly opposes HB 38, which would advance the process of amending the PA Constitution to create regional districts for judges in the Commonwealth, Superior, and Supreme Courts of PAThe LWVPA joins the Pennsylvania Bar Association, Fair Districts PA, the Committee of Seventy, Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, and other good government organizations in opposing HB38.

House Bill 38 Current Status


HB 38 was passed by the Judiciary Committee and sent to the full House on January 13th. 

HB 38 was tabled by the Speaker of the House on January 13th, temporarily halting consideration of the bill.  

 HB38 will not pass in time to put the Judicial Districting amendment on the ballot for the May primary.  It can still pass in time for the general election in November.

star yellow on lt blue (harrisburg) What action can you take?


If you have not already done so, contact your own PA House Representative, and ask them to oppose House Bill 38 when it comes to the floor.

Contact information is available here:  Find Your PA Legislator


The gatekeepers:  The current gatekeeper is House Speaker Bryan Cutler.



Election Law Reform Hearings 

LWVPA  supports the continuation of No-excuse Absentee Voting (Mail-in Voting) with some change in implementation, including 

  • allowing pre-canvassing of mail-in ballots 7 days before Election Day,
  • allowing voters to "cure" (correct) mail-in ballots that are rejected due to errors in the signature.



Election Law Reform -- Current Status

The House State Government Committee is holding a series of hearings on Election Law. 
The Committee Chair is Rep. Seth Grove. 
(717) 260-6374
The hearings are being livestreamed at www.PAHouseGOP.com.
The hearing schedule is listed below.  No legislation has been introduced.

     
       
     

•January 21:   Dept. of State's Election Guidance
•January 28:  SURE System and IT issues
•February 11:  Review of Election Audits

•March 4:  Voter Registration

March 10: Certification and operation of voting machines with demonstrations.
March 18: Mail-in and absentee ballots.
March 25: Contracted vendors.
April 1: County election day operations and satellite offices.
April 8: Election integrity and accessibility policies.
April 15: Overview of how other states conduct elections.
April 22: Stakeholders.
April 29: Proposed election legislation and member testimony.
May 5: Any further election matters.
Hearing Start Times are posted at www.PAHouseGOP.com .  The hearings usually start in the early afternoon, but differ from session to session.

Recordings of previous sessions are available at www.PAHouseGOP.com/electionlawhearings 

 


How to Track a Bill in the PA General Assembly

This short video from Fair Districts PA will walk you through the steps of tracking a bill in Harrisburg using the PA General Assembly website.


The Links You Need to Track a Bill


The Pennsylvania General Assembly website has several tools for tracking legislation and your representatives.  

You can find your own representatives and their contact information here:   Find Your PA Legislator
Click on their names to see what legislation they've sponsored, and what committees they're on.

You can read the text of a bill here, and you can sign up for notifications of the bill's progress:   Track a Bill  

Find a list of standing committee chairs here for the State House:  Standing Committee Chairs - House.  

And here for the State Senate:  Standing Committee Chairs - Senate


Are you new to contacting your elected officials?  These two documents can help.

The "Keep it Simple" infographic has tips and and sample script for calling or emailing your representatives.

If you live in Allegheny County, bookmark the "Facts for Citizens" directory so you can find contact information for most of your federal, state, and local elected officials in one place.

Direct link for sharing: //www.lwvpgh.org/docs.ashx?id=741434

View or Download


Find the latest copy of Facts for Citizens at lwvpgh.org/ffc