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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: April 28, 2021 03:49 PM
From: Senator Lisa Baker
To: All Senate members
Subject: Uniformity and Transparency in Amending the Pennsylvania Constitution
The process for amending the state Constitution is involved in terms of adhering to the specified timeline and procedural steps.  This is quite purposeful, as it affords legislators and citizens ample opportunity to be informed regarding the intent of the proposed amendment, and to weigh its advantages and drawbacks before being presented to voters on the ballot.  A key procedural step, the requirement for advertising a proposed amendment each time it receives legislative approval, has been reinforced by court rulings. 

Pennsylvanians are still reeling from the recent catastrophic failure of the Wolf Administration to advertise the amendment providing a window for childhood sexual abuse victims to seek justice.  We have yet to receive any accounting for how this happened.  Every change to the state Constitution is of consequence in its own right.  Many of us have sponsored or are contemplating proposed amendments, and none of us wants to see any effort derailed by administrative error or incompetence. While there have been instances where the advertising of a proposed amendment has been determined to be technically deficient, there is no apparent instance prior to this year, where this ministerial step was completely neglected.

In respect to the future, we cannot let this happen again, whether the subject is a major public issue or a more technical matter.  As such, I have prepared a measure creating a uniform and transparent procedure for the publication of proposed constitutional amendments.  A key feature is protocol for notifying the General Assembly, the attorney general, and relevant state agencies that the advertising requirements have been legally and properly met.  This type of safeguard is necessary to make state government more accountable to the public interest.

I invite you to join me in sponsoring this important addition to the process of checks and balances, which are meant to provide effective and efficient governance.