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HomeHarrisburg Watch
 binocular purple      Harrisburg Watch

    Members -- Are you interested in meeting a PA State Legislator?  Here's a chance to learn about League's work at the State level and do a short term project with LWVPAWe are seeking volunteers to interview the State Legislators who represent our service area.  Interview questions and complete directions are provided by the LWVPA Board.  To ensure safety during the pandemic, phone or virtual interviewing is encouraged.


To volunteer and/or for more information, please contact Kathy Nagle at education@lwvpgh.org  



   2022 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

The League of Women Voters has always advocated on behalf of ballot access, fair election law, and issues of transparency and good government.  In 2022, the LWVPA will focus advocacy on four issues in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.    Click on the binoculars to jump to an issue.

issue #1
issue #2
issue #3
issue #4

Legislative Rules Reform

Redistricting

Proposed Amendment to

Elect Judges by Region

Election Law Reform



BILL TRACKING  - This chart provides automatic updates on selected bills pending in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. 
(
Scroll or use arrow keys to view additional columns on the right.)

Commonly Used Legislative Terms:

When a bill is...

"Placed on the table,"  it is taken out of consideration and set aside.  It may be considered at a later time.
"Taken off the table," it is back in consideration and may be brought to the floor of the chamber.
"Recommitted," it is sent back from the chamber floor to its committee for further work.
"Reported as committed," has been passed by its committee with no changes.
"Reported as amended," it has been passed by its committee with changes.
Learn more with these resources:

Glossary of Legislative Terms  
"Making Law in Pennsylvania" pamphlet describing the path of a PA bill.  See more resources at PAcapitol.com.

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.  When this happens, you need to contact the gatekeeper in addition to your own representative.

Learn more about the role of the gatekeepers and how to up your advocacy in the "Tracking a Bill in the PA General Assembly" infographic.

Direct link for sharing: www.lwvpgh.org/docs.ashx?id=759674


View or Download

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.


Many state legislatures have policies that allow bills a fair chance to make it to a floor vote, including

  • giving all committee members a vote in deciding whether to hear a bill
  • giving all committee members a vote in deciding whether to advance a bill to the floor
  • requiring committees to "report" or send to the floor, all bills that they hear
  • requiring "automatic calendaring" of bills -- all bills that come out of committee are advanced to a floor vote
  • requiring that a bill that passes in one chamber be brought to the floor in the other chamber.

This map from Fair Vote rates state legislatures for fairness on a scale of 0-5.  Pennsylvania is one of 20 states to score 0 points for fairness.




Learn more with these resources:

"Best Practices for Collaborative Policymaking"  - a report from Fair Vote and the Bipartisan Policy Center 
Rules of the PA Senate
Rules of the PA House of Representatives
 






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.






Redistricting


LWVPA  strongly supports transparency and accountability in the redistricting process.

Action Item
LWVPA Opposes Election Reform Bill
HB2207 



HB2207 would amend the PA Constitution to change the way state legislative districts are drawn. It would create a ‘redistricting commission’ that would be under control of legislative leaders.  This gives incumbent House and Senate members the ultimate power to draw their own districts.


Read the full text of the bill here:   HB2207

Contact your state representative now:   Contact your Representative here!

"For decades, Pennsylvania has been one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. However, now that the Legislative Reapportionment Committee is about to adoptfair election districts, certain majority party leaders are angry and pushing back.

They have proposed  House Bill 2207, which would amend the PA Constitution to change the way state legislative districts are drawn. It would create a ‘redistricting commission’ that would be under control of legislative leaders.
This gives incumbent House and Senate members the ultimate power to draw their own districts...

...This bill is an unprincipled attack on the civic process in Pennsylvania. If only one party can win elections, our democracy is no longer free or fair.
"




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.

star yellow on lt blue (harrisburg) Action Item:


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






Election Law Reform

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.

Carol Kuniholm, LWVPA Vice President for Goverment and Social Policy, testified at the PA House State Government Hearing on April 15, 2021.  For information on LWVPA's positions on election law, read her testimony here: Election Law Testimony to PA State Govt. Committee, 4/15



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, or sign up for notifications of the bill's progress here:   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