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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: May 9, 2017 04:31 PM
From: Senator Sharif Street
To: All Senate members
Subject: Technical change to the Election Code related to the Philadelphia City Commissioners.
In the near future, I will introduce legislation to make a technical fix to a drafting error in our election code, as it relates to cities of the first class.

In Philadelphia, the roles played by County Commissioners in other parts of the state are divided among other elected officials: the Mayor is the general executive, the City Council is the legislative branch, and the City Commissioners run elections.

While 25 Pa CS 2641(b) reflects this dichotomy, there appears to be a drafting ambiguity over whether the different set of facts are appropriately reflected under 2641(c). Current law requires that whenever a County Commissioner is a candidate for nomination or election, the President Judge of the Court of Common Please shall appoint someone else to oversee the election instead of the County Commissioners. This practice is followed in Philadelphia as well as all other counties.

However, the law also requires the same process to be followed if a question appears on the ballot. Clearly it was meant to apply to County Commissioners and not City Commissioners of cities of the first class. This requirement makes sense in counties where the County Commissioners act as the executive and legislative bodies, as a conflict may exist as they run an election that includes a question that affects the government they also manage.

But in Philadelphia, the City Commissioners do not have that conflict of interest, as they do not manage the government. They simply run the elections.

Recently, litigants have sued the President Judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to compel her to appoint new commissioners this year because a Charter change has been proposed dealing with a procurement issue that is not related to the powers or material functions of the City Commissioners. This litigation proposes a different course of conduct be required than has been required in the prior 66 years of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter.

My proposed amendment to this section makes clear that the Legislature now, and has always, intended for 2641(c) to only apply to conflicted individuals—city or county commissioners running for office or, in the case of the sentence at issue, county commissioners who would be directly impacted by adoption of or amendment of a Home Rule Charter. Because the Philadelphia City Commissioners are not the general legislative branch for Philadelphia, the provisions of 2641(c) do not apply.

If you have questions about this legislation, please contact my Policy Director, Micah Mahjoubian at mmahjoubian@pasenate.com.

Introduced as SB708