State lawmakers have finally adopted a set of operating rules for the House which include making it easier to force votes on legislation, expanding sexual harassment and discrimination protections, and changing the constitutional amendment approval process.
Almost two months after the official start of the 2023-24 legislative session, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives can finally get to work.
Lawmakers approved House Resolution 1, which establishes operating rules for the chamber, along party lines, by a vote of 102-100. The operating rules dictate the composition of committees and the process for introducing and passing legislation. The rules are voted on by all members of the House and must pass by a simple majority.
Without rules in place, the House can’t function. Normally, lawmakers approve these rules on the first day of a new session. That wasn’t the case at the start of the current session in January.
Instead of calling a vote on the rules in January, Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks), former speaker of the House, recessed the chamber and embarked on a listening tour of the commonwealth with a working group of six House members seeking input from the public and government groups. The result was the “Rozzi Rules,” which were the rules passed in the House today.
The new set of operating rules make it easier to force votes on legislation in committee or on the floor, give the minority party more representation on committees, and expand sexual harassment and discrimination protections.
“We’re getting that done,” Rozzi said regarding harassment protections. “This majority party is getting that done. Unlike the previous 12 years, where the previous majority party never took this issue up.”
Under the rules of previous legislative sessions, the majority party has held near-total control over which bills advance in the chamber and which ones are tabled. With Republicans holding the majority for the past 12 years, many Democratic priorities like raising the minimum wage and protecting reproductive rights have been blocked.
Other changes set forth by the “Rozzi Rules” involve constitutional amendments. The new rules prevent constitutional amendments from being placed on the primary ballot and can only go on the November ballot, and require at least one public hearing by a House committee be held before lawmakers vote on whether to pass the bill. Another rule requires that a House-originated bill proposing a constitutional amendment must only include one subject.
“Changing Pennsylvania’s constitution should never be done recklessly,” Rozzi said.
The new rules concerning constitutional amendments appear to be a reaction to recent Republican strategy.
Last month, Republicans in the state Senate passed a bill containing three unrelated proposed amendments that included requiring voters to show ID at the poll for all elections, limiting the governor’s veto power, and establishing a civil suit window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Last summer, Senate Republicans attempted to lump five different, but significant changes to the state constitution into one proposal, including an abortion ban.