East Falls Local Article: For Better or Worse

State constitutional amendments are a serious matter.  I swore an oath to uphold said constitution and it is the ultimate governing document for our commonwealth.  Ultimately, matters of state constitutionality are decided by our state Supreme Court.

This current session of the General Assembly has seen quite a few constitutional amendments introduced, some passing out of committee and making it to the House floor for a final vote only three weeks into the session.

If a proposed constitutional amendment passes both chambers in two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly the amendment is placed on the ballot for voters to decide. 

One such amendment will appear on the ballot on May 18.

SB2 has successfully passed both chambers this session and had already passed last session. It is a constitutional amendment to curtail the Governor’s Executive powers regarding the declaration of an emergency.

Basically, this constitutional amendment would limit the declaration to 21 days and if that declaration needs to be extended it would require action of the General Assembly.  Currently the Governor can extend emergency declarations without legislative action.

Having served in the House for the past 10 years, there is nothing more concerning than what is being proposed by this constitutional amendment. As I reflect on the severe and impactful consequences of COVID-19, a pandemic, and further reflect on my colleagues who  do not fully embrace the science behind said pandemic (or the mitigation efforts intended to preserve public safety and health) I would be alarmed at the prospect of placing such a decision in the hands of 253 individually elected officials who would have limited and or varying access to the expertise required to make the most informed decision(s) regarding an emergency for our commonwealth. The action of the General Assembly could be vetoed by the Governor.

Keep in mind that said decision(s) would be time sensitive and could ostensibly be politically motivated.  I witness political theater on a regular basis in the Capitol (from both sides of the aisle) and, in my opinion, citizens lose as a result of each and every performance.

Constitutional amendments need to be advertised in advance and should be written in plain English but I have seen amendments drafted for the ballot previously and the language has been confusing.

This ballot question moved quickly, during our 3rd week of scheduled session days in order to ensure it would be on the primary ballot. 

Historically, primaries garner a lower turnout than general elections and the May 18 primary may follow that pattern.  Questions on the ballot can be voted by those registered non-affiliated, independent or another 3rd party even though we do not have open primaries in Pennsylvania.

We will be reviewing this constitutional amendment in more detail at my 104th town hall on Friday, March 19th at 10:30am. The town hall will be virtual and I hope you can join me. 

This is also a good reminder as to why all eligible should be registered to vote and to vote IN. EVERY. ELECTION. 

This brings me to my closing comment.  If you want to vote via mail-in ballot, please make sure you apply for that ballot as soon as possible.  You must apply annually and my office can mail you a mail-in ballot application or you can apply online at VotesPA.com/ApplyMailBallot.

As always, I am interested in your thoughts and ideas about state government.  You can reach me at 215-482-8726 or at RepDeLissio@pahouse.net