New Pa. House rules step in wrong direction

On the first day of the new legislative session the Pennsylvania 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.

Under the new rules the House will no longer have to wait 24 hours to vote on bills amended by the Senate. Now bills can be considered by the House six hours after they come into the public domain.

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

For example, last term provisions were inserted in 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 rank and file House member to find and bring to the attention of the public objectionable provisions –especially considering the multiplicity of other legislation in play around budget time.

The 24 hour wait rule was adopted after the controversial midnight pay raise vote of 2005. It was among the changes recommended by a bipartisan reform commission to improve both transparency and legislative accountability. These new rules are a step in the wrong direction.

These changes violate both the fundamental right of rank and file House members to cast an informed vote and the right of the public to give input to their elected representatives.

I plan to introduce a resolution reverting back to the 2015-2016 House Rules and I encourage my fellow legislators and all parties interested in a more transparent Pennsylvania legislature to voice their support for this change.