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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 29, 2021 11:27 AM
From: Senator Judith L. Schwank and Sen. Lindsey M. Williams, Sen. Katie J. Muth
To: All Senate members
Subject: Rules Reform: Authorizing Minority Party Chairs to Hold Committee Hearings
In the near future, we will be introducing a Senate Resolution amending the Senate Operating Rules to allow both standing committee Chairs to have the authority to hold committee hearings. 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. 

Specifically, this resolution will amend the Senate Operating Rules to give the Minority Chair of a standing committee the authority to hold a committee hearing on policy or legislation within the jurisdiction of the standing committee, provided the Minority Chair complies with proper notice requirements. Currently, the Majority Chair is the only person on the committee with the authority to hold official Senate committee hearings, which have access to subpoena power. 

So often in this Chamber, legislation is introduced and referred to its respective standing committee where it remains until the end of the legislative session without so much as a hearing. Standing committee hearings play a key role in our legislative process. Official committee hearings grant bill sponsors the opportunity to shine light on necessary policy changes, provide a platform for policy stakeholders and experts to share their perspectives and expertise with committee members, and also serves as a mechanism to increase public awareness on important issues impacting the people of our Commonwealth.

Allowing the Minority Chair of a standing committee to hold hearings on legislation and policy will permit them to elevate important policy within the committee and encourage productive dialogue amongst committee members on all issues, instead of being limited to the agenda of the Majority Chair.  

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

Introduced as SR155