February 6, 2023

A new session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly begins when the calendar switches to 2023.

And next week there will be a Warren County League Women Voters program “Present facts and give ideas for a more effective legislative process.”

The event will take place on Thursday, December 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the Slater Room at the Warren Public Library. Phyllis Wright, local league volunteer who also volunteers with the league’s #FixHarrisburg initiative.

“Our full-time legislature is the largest in the country and the third most expensive,” Wright told the Times Observer. “Now is the time for citizens to speak out in favor of a more effective legislative process.”

She said that both the Senate and the House of Representatives are subject to a set of procedural rules.

“Unfortunately, these rules impede solutions for a more effective legislature of our PA government,” said Wright. “They consolidate power in the hands of a few members of each chamber and allow a committee chair or legislative leader to block bills that have strong bipartisan public support.”

Such a situation unfolded back in January when Rep. Kathy Rapp said a bill on safe staffing in hospitals would not leave her committee.

She said at a hearing that the legislation “Will not be adopted by the Health Committee” this session.

Wright said the rules for administering the chambers are now being worked out.

“On the first day of each session, a vote is quickly pushed through,” She said. “Basic legislators are pressured to make rules, often without reading them. This will happen on January 3 when the 2023 legislature begins.”

So what can be done in response to these challenges?

Wright made a few suggestions: “Bills with strong bipartisan support should guarantee a vote in committee. Lawmakers should be given at least 24 hours to read bills before a vote takes place; how and whether public hearings are conducted; public notification rule requirements; Etc.”

She said more than 80% of bills were never considered in committee and more than 50% passed in one chamber and died in the other.

“Less than 7% of the bills went to the governor.” She said. “Please join us as we learn what can be done for a more effective legislative process in Pennsylvania.”

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