Vitali moves to restore House Rules reform

HARRISBURG, Jan. 26 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, has introduced a measure that would restore the 24-hour period House members must wait before being able to vote on legislation amended by the Senate.

The change to the waiting period from the previously established 24 hours to six hours was tucked into the overall House rules package, which was voted on Jan. 3 with very little notice. The rules were approved by a 167-32 vote.

"On the first day of the new legislative session, the House changed its rules to make it easier for House leadership to obscure the contents of important legislation from rank-and-file House members and the general public," Vitali said.

"This rule will be the most damaging around budget time. Frequently, House and Senate leaders surreptitiously insert provisions in large, budget-related bills that many rank-and-file members and the public would find highly objectionable."

Vitali said some examples of this furtiveness from last session include when provisions were inserted into the fiscal code to cancel regulations to make gas drilling safer, delay measures to address climate change and transfer millions of dollars from a fund for high energy efficiency buildings for natural gas development.

"Six hours is simply not enough time for even the most diligent legislator to find and raise a cry -- or the public to give input -- on the objectionable provisions, especially considering the multitude of bills in play during that time."

The 24-hour rule was adopted in response to the controversial midnight pay raise vote of 2005. It was among the changes recommended by a bipartisan reform commission to improve transparency and legislative accountability.

"The new six-hour rule is a step in the wrong direction," he said. "It violates both the fundamental right of House members to cast an informed vote and the right of the public to give input to their elected representatives."

The resolution (H.R. 47) is expected to be referred to the House Rules Committee for consideration.