Pa. Speaker Rozzi pledges to prepare House rules by end of month
The speaker of the Pennsylvania House describes the continuation of the efforts to put in place new rules of procedure.
The State House is at an impasse over how it should conduct business for the first time in at least a decade. Without rules, no legislation can be crafted – which is why the chamber has stalled for weeks.
But in posts shared with WITF on Monday, Chairman Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) said he and six other lawmakers tasked with drafting new rules were sifting through ideas the public gave them about where, when and how bills should be voted on, among other things. things.
Rozzi’s “Task Force to Move Pennsylvania Forward” has presented these ideas in a series of listening sessions across the state over the past two weeks.
“The next steps…are to create an analytical summary of the listening tour stops. We expect new rules to be introduced when the House resumes session,” Rozzi wrote.
When asked, Rozzi said lawmakers would vote on the operating rules no later than Feb. 27, the next time the legislature is scheduled to meet in Harrisburg. He added that the rules could be proposed and voted on the same day. Normal bills usually take at least a few days to go through the legislative process before receiving a vote.
The newly appointed speaker said he heard “tons of good suggestions” from the public during the listening tour and plans to “incorporate many” into the list of new rules to be presented to the House.
Many participants in the listening session, including Carol Kuniholm of advocacy group Fair Districts PA, want the House to make it easier to vote on popular bills. She argues that power was concentrated in too few hands under the House’s old rules.
“We cannot afford this. Pennsylvania was shortchanged by an ineffective legislature even when the same party controlled both houses,” she said.
“We really need to have a legislature that works for the people of Pennsylvania because the issues we have are not going away. They are only getting worse,” Kuniholm added.
Kuniholm pointed to the House Health Committee’s refusal to accept a proposal to mandate carbon monoxide detectors in Allentown last year. State senators unanimously approved the bill, after noxious gas seeped into an Allentown daycare center.
Others expressed frustration that the House Judiciary Committee did not pass a series of Democratic-sponsored gun restrictions in a vote last summer. Both panels were controlled by Republicans at the time.
Kuniholm argued that the stakes are now much higher for House lawmakers. The GOP had controlled the House chamber with comfortable majorities for the past decade, but elections held under newly redistributed political cards last year split the chamber between the two major parties almost evenly.
“There is now the possibility, for the first time in a long time, to vote against people – and I think this pressure should encourage them to put in place better rules,” she said.
Among the most important changes the House should make, Kuniholm said, is one that would allow individual lawmakers to force a vote on popular bills if a committee chairman refuses to call one. Members of the House have technically had this power, but the procedure is rarely used and even more rarely effective.