In 1682, William Penn asserted that Pennsylvania would be committed to liberty and the people would be their own masters. The same year, he convened the Provincial Assembly, predecessor of the House, which delcared its responsibility to the electorate.
The Provincial Assembly, representing the electorate, became an independent branch of government. In 1722, it created the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the first sovereign court in America, independent of Penn's appointed Governor and the Legislature.
The same year the Declaration of Independence was signed in the State House, later known as Independence Hall, Pennsylvanians, in 1776, adopted their own State Constitution with a "Declaration of Rights," and formed a new Assembly.
The 25 "Rights" of 1776 remain in the Pennsylvania Constitution and specify where the ultimate authority of government lies:
"All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness. For the advancement of these ends they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper."The Revolutionary War placed the freedom of the Commonwealth at stake. Leading statesmen Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Mifflin and John Dickinson made the House all powerful with a weak Supreme Executive Council serving as the executive branch. Seven men, including Franklin, Mifflin and Dickinson, eventually served as Council Chairman, or "President of Pennsylvania."
A dominate Legislature aided the victory of the colonial revolutionaries. However, such dominance was not suitable during peacetime. Therefore, Pennsylvanians voted to reform their government in 1790. A new Constitution was written which enacted the tripartite separation of powers. The legislative branch expanded into a bicameral system with the founding of the Senate in 1790. A Governor was elected to head the executive branch. The judicial branch was strengthened to oversee justice and the constitutionality of laws. Each branch is independent. However, each monitors the other within a framework of checks and balances. Each branch is answerable to the people.
Pennsylvanians have strived to continually improve their government. The Auditor General, State Treasurer and Attorney General became elected offices. The General Assembly created regulatory departments and agencies which operate independently or under the authority of the Governor and are administered by the law. The rights of the people are guaranteed by the Pennsylvania Constitution. The original "Declaration of Rights" of 1776 is more extensive than the United States "Bill of Rights." In recent years it has been expanded to include two more "rights": in 1971 Pennsylvanians adopted the right to a clean environment and freedom from sexual discrimination.
The principles upon which Pennsylvania was founded have been crafted into tradition, law and the overall legislative process. The Commonwealth has enjoyed over 200 years of continuous peaceful liberty secure from dictatorial rule. Safeguards, vigorously upheld, have made Pennsylvania a haven of individual and social freedom.
1644 - 1718
|Eligibility||Age: 21 - Representative |
25 - Senator
Resident of PA for 4 years and of district for 1 year
Resident of PA for 7 years
|Age: no minimum age|
Statewide judges 1 year in PA; local judges 1 year in district
|Number of members||House: 203 since 1967|
Senate: 50 since 1875
|1 since 1790, Lieutenant Governor since 1875||Supreme Court -7 |
Superior Court - 15
Commonwealth Court - 9
|Terms||House: 2 years since 1875|
Senate: 4 years since 1875
|4 years since 1875, eligible for 2nd successive term since 1970||10 years with successive terms since 1969|