East Falls Local Article: Proud To Be a Chair (AKA Ranking Member)

Happy New Year! Like many of you, I am thrilled to have 2020 in the rearview mirror. We are not yet home free but we are headed in that direction with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations.

I am truly honored to have been re-elected to represent the 194th.  Swearing in day is January 5 and our first day of session is scheduled for January 11. This session will be the first time I serve in the role of a minority chairman for one of the PA House committees.  This chairmanship is awarded based on seniority and I am looking forward to serving in this capacity.  We will find out our committee assignment closer to swearing in day and I will be sure to share that news.

Even though my committee assignment, as of this writing, is yet to be determined, I plan to ensure that stakeholders are brought to the table consistently to discuss the legislation that is referred to my committee and that impacts them.  Too often, I see stakeholders contacted after the fact and in some instances not at all. Stakeholders represent many varied interests and are often highly nuanced in the impact of the policy under discussion.

Working across the aisle is also a critical part of my plan.  On many occasions policy is developed by one party or the other, but in my opinion, the best policy is developed by a joint effort because it can incorporate a broader approach that will increase the likelihood the policy will be voted out of the chamber without contentious debate.  It will also be important to ensure that the Senate committee receiving the legislation, if it were to be voted out of committee and out of the House chamber, is kept in the loop to ensure legislation makes it all the way through the process to the Governor’s desk.  Historically, about 3800 bills are introduced in each 2 year session yet fewer than 8% of those bills are signed into law.

It was a busy December, as many of us prepared for a busy session year ahead.  My own involvement included working to change our PA House rules to ensure a fair process when considering proposed legislation. Currently, a majority chair can determine if and when legislation may be considered in their committee. Then, if legislation makes it out of committee, the majority leader determines what legislation is placed on the House Voting Schedule. The Speaker then determines if the legislation will be called for a vote.  When too few elected officials hold this power over legislation, the greater good of Pennsylvania’s citizens is not served.  A change in our PA House rules could ensure that legislation is treated more equitably regardless of who has proposed the legislation and removes that power from a majority chair and others in leadership who may have their own agenda.

My goal is to have leadership embrace the convening of a Speaker’s Reform Commission to focus on a comprehensive review of the House rules.  This last happened in 2007 and was a truly bipartisan effort that resulted in reform recommendations being made within 90 days of the beginning of session. For the first 90 days the House chamber operated under temporary rules. The reforms adopted in 2007 have slowly been eroded and it is past time for this review. 

FairVote.org is a non-partisan group that rates fairness in the 99 state chambers across the country.  Pennsylvania scores 0. Colorado scores 100.  It is obvious to me that our efforts need to be put into the infrastructure of how the PA House works in order to facilitate change that will result in fairness.

As you can see, I am endeavoring to do my best to represent my constituents and help you to understand that it is as much about the process as any specific piece of legislation. In fact, this continues to be the number 1 goal for my regularly scheduled town hall meetings. My next meeting via Zoom, and streamed on Facebook will be on Saturday, January 23 at 10am.  This will be my 102nd town hall.  To register for the Zoom link, please email me at RepDeLissio@pahouse.net or call the office at 215-482-8726.