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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 29, 2021 11:22 AM
From: Senator Lindsey M. Williams and Sen. Katie J. Muth, Sen. James R. Brewster
To: All Senate members
Subject: Rules Reform: Every Bill Gets a Vote
In the near future, we will be introducing a resolution amending the Senate Operating Rules to ensure that every bill introduced in the Senate would get consideration and a vote in committee. 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 Reform will ensure transparency in the legislative process, encourage public participation, and hold members accountable to the public. 

Currently, the rules in both chambers allow for a handful of elected representatives and senators, of the majority party only, to decide which bills are voted on in both committee and on the floor. This enables political deals that end up blocking priorities that the majority of Pennsylvanians support. Furthermore, on average, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passes less than 7% of bills introduced each session. As the nonpartisan group Fair Districts PA points out, “the result is a full-time legislature that enacts far fewer bills than even most part-time legislatures and that is consistently unresponsive to bills with strong public support.”

One way to address these inefficiencies and concentration of power to one party is to require that every bill introduced by an elected representative or senator gets a vote in committee. This would ensure that all bills introduced have to at the very least be publicly discussed and voted on in committee. As a full time legislature, we should be talking about all legislation being developed and not just the priorities of leadership. 

There is a fear that this would mean over burdening committees, since last session alone the Senate introduced 1,331 bills. However, we believe that this rule reform will naturally result in the introduction of higher quality legislation with increased stakeholder engagement and a reduction in the quantity of bills introduced just for show. As a result, we will have a smaller number of stronger pieces of legislation that works for our constituents and policy that is developed thoughtfully and requires coalition building among stakeholders and members.

We are a full time legislature producing less than most part-time legislatures. We need to stop wasting taxpayer dollars and actually enact legislation supported by the majority of Pennsylvanians. If we were held accountable to those standards in office, our legislature would have banned single use plastics, acted on lead contamination in our water supply, and ended puppy mills years ago, rather than allowing a few elected officials to advance legislation that is influenced by special interests instead of that which is for and supported by the people. Government is for the people, not for industry. 

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

Introduced as SR76