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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 29, 2021 11:17 AM
From: Senator Katie J. Muth and Sen. Lindsey M. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: Rules Reform: Every Amendment Gets a Vote
In the near future, we will be introducing a resolution amending the Senate Operating Rules to ensure that every amendment gets a vote in committee and on the floor. This proposed resolution is among a package of Senate Rules Reform Resolutions, many of which are included in SR4, that are intended to empower members of both sides of the aisle to effectively advocate for their constituents. This package of Rules Reforms will ensure transparency in the legislative process, encourage public participation, and hold members accountable to the public. 

Currently, the Majority Party, without any consent from the Minority Party, can “call the question” (use the nuclear option) that stops any and all amendments from being offered or debated. The Majority Party, who has control of all aspects of the legislative calendar, has also threatened not to run good bills if the Minority Party offers amendments on other unrelated bills. This abuse of power currently has no consequences, allowing the Majority Party to silence other members who are trying to advocate for their constituencies and for what is right and just.

For example, HB33 from the 2019-2020 session was a budget code bill that included a number of helpful policies, but also eliminated the General Assistance program, an extremely important and needed program for the most marginalized Pennsylvanians. When Senators from the Minority Party attempted to offer amendments, such as reinstating the General Assistance program for veterans, people living with disabilities, and survivors of domestic violence, the President Pro Tempore motioned to call the question and, with a simple majority vote, stopped all of the amendments intended to help those vulnerable populations from being considered on the Senate floor for a vote. 

Amendments should not be held hostage to political or ideological battles. Those elected to serve the public need to encourage truthful debate and bipartisan collaboration to benefit Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth, instead of shutting down democracy and protecting Majority Party members from taking hard votes. 

This legislation requires that all amendments must be considered for a vote unless the prime sponsor withdraws their amendment. We can be both timely with legislation and also give all members the right to offer amendments to advance policy advocated by their constituents. 

Please join us in cosponsoring this important change to the Senate Operating Rules.

Introduced as SR81