East Falls Local Article: Improving the Process
The Best Way to Make Sure More (and Better) Bills Become Law
On average, 3,800 bills are introduced in the Pennsylvania House and Senate every two years. Typically, under 8% of these bills make it to a Governor’s desk for consideration. At the end of the two-year session period, all bills that have been introduced and did not become law ‘die’ and can be introduced the following session; so, about 3,500 bills ‘die’ each session. I am continuously amazed at the volume of good legislation that is introduced session after session but never becomes law.
Bills such as the PA Fairness Act that would offer protection from being fired if you are gay. Bills that would permit 16- and 17-year-olds to register to vote upon getting their driver’s license (and of course, not voting until 18). Bills that would reform our redistricting process so that elected officials are not choosing their voters. Fair funding bills that would ensure basic public education is funded 100% equitably. Campaign finance reform legislation that would place limits on the amount of campaign contributions to candidates running for state office – currently there is no limit. These are just a few of the bills that have been introduced many times over the years and have never resulted in a vote, let alone becoming law.
Our system of legislating does not work well, and few elected members seem to be interested in fixing what is not working. I want to work to fix the system so good legislation does not continue to die without any consideration.
During my extensive private-sector career, I was continuously tasked with how to make organizations successful. To solve a problem, it was critical to not only identify the problem accurately but determine the cause. Unfortunately, that type of problem solving rarely occurs in the PA House.
What has worked is the commitment that several of my colleagues and I have made to changing how the legislative process works in Harrisburg, because that’s what will allow a greater number of bills to become law. Over the years, efforts to change the legislative process have included colleagues from both sides of the aisle agreeing that fundamental changes to our process will translate to better policy becoming law quicker.
One example was the Government Reform Caucus, of which I was a charter member. This bipartisan, bicameral effort to advance policy promoted reform legislation such as gift bans and campaign finance reform. That effort lasted several years, but committee chairs and leadership at that time were not interested in advancing reform legislation and the group disbanded after about 4 years.
Fortunately, a new group of 16 House members (8 Democrats and 8 Republicans) has emerged and I am again a charter member in this bipartisan effort to foster reform. Our group is committed to this work as evidenced by our evening and weekend meetings, our willingness to interface regularly with our respective leadership teams, and to advocate for the changes we think are instrumental to change the culture in Harrisburg.
Our initial meeting was in December of 2020 and we have proposed changes such as merging Republican and Democrat print shops (yes, there are separate print shops in the House), merging messenger services, and coordinating bulk purchasing for office and other supplies on both sides of the aisle (including our District Offices that currently must order supplies on their own).
We are now proceeding with a revamp of the House rules, on how legislation moves through committees and to the floor. After rules reform, we will move onto identifying and supporting legislation in a bipartisan manner, modeling what we hope is more productive behavior for the greater good of our citizens.
We will always have ideologically extreme members of the House, from both the left and right, however, at the end of the day, it is imperative to be pragmatic and to be willing to compromise and find that middle ground.
History demonstrates that is the ideal place to govern from and I hope that you will continue to dialogue with me so I can best represent your thoughts and interests as I continue to advocate for these foundational changes that will benefit all citizens.
Speak Up and Stay Informed
Thoughts? Suggestions? Concerns? Make your voice heard by calling (215) 482-8726 or emailing me at RepDeLissio@pahouse.net.
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Representative Pamela A. DeLissio serves the 194th Legislative District, which includes East Falls.