PA House Rules Changes and Committee Updates
Each legislative session the House adopts operational rules which govern how it will function for that two-year term. Some of these rules cover procedures for proposing legislation or amendments, committee make up and general voting procedures. Typically these rules are largely consistent with those of the previous session. However, to me, the rules changes for the new session were sizeable, and in my opinion, a cause for concern. Accordingly, I voted against them.
Three of the rules changes reduce the time that legislators have to propose bills and amendments, and how much time they have to consider their support of bills that are on final passage in the House. For example, the filing deadline for amendments has been changed from 2 pm to 1 pm the session day before the bill is scheduled for 2nd consideration. After the bill is amended, representatives now have 12 hours, instead of 24, to consider the bill. Finally, the allotted time for General Assembly members to read and understand the yearly budget bill before a vote has been reduced from 9 to 6 days and all amendments must be filed 2 days before the vote. While these changes may seem small, a lot of work can get done in the final hours before a bill is voted upon, to say nothing of the fact that some bills require several hours to analyze.
In the past, House committee make-up generally reflects the party split in the General Assembly, which, since the Democrats picked up 11 seats in 2018, currently sits at 55% Republican and 45% Democratic. The new rules change widens that margin to a 60% to 40% split at 15 Republicans and 10 Democrats, while permitting a bill to be reported out of committee with only 11 affirmative votes. I do not find this change to be fair or positive.
Two new subcommittees were added and a Government Oversight Committee was formed. On their face I had no objections, but it will remain to be seen whether these new additions lead to better legislation or become merely partisan tools designed to attack the executive branch.
Many other rules were proposed, including several from my Caucus, which would have increased the mechanisms that allowed for minority bills to be considered. Obviously those were not adopted. However, you can view the complete set of House rules here.
There are 24 standing committees in the House, each with a Republican and Democratic chair. At the start of each session these committees are reorganized. Only the most senior members can become a chair and they are assigned at the discretion of each caucus leader. Committee leaders are very important in the legislative process as they decide what bills get called up for attention. In the coming weeks, the caucuses will be issuing their committee assignments to their members. Below you can find the majority and minority chairs for each committee:
Aging and Older Adult Services – Rep. Tom Murt (R); Rep. Steve Samuelson (D)
Agriculture and Rural Affairs – Rep. Martin Causer (R); Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski (D)
Appropriations – Rep. Stan Saylor (R); Rep. Matt Bradford (D)
Children and Youth – Rep. Karen Boback (R); Rep. Joseph Petrarca (D)
Commerce – Rep. Mark Keller (R); Rep. John Galloway (D)
Consumer Affairs – Rep. Brian Ellis (R); Rep. Rob Matzie (D)
Education – Rep. Curt Sonney (R); Rep. James Roebuck (D)
Environmental Resources and Energy – Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R); Rep Greg Vitali (D)
Finance – Rep. Mike Peifer (R); Rep. Jake Wheatley (D)
Game and Fisheries – Rep. Keith Gillespie (R); Rep. William Kortz (D)
Gaming Oversight – Rep. Jim Marshall (R); Rep. Scott Conklin (D)
Health – Rep. Kathy Rapp (R); Rep. Dan Frankel (D)
Human Services – Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R); Rep. Angel Cruz (D)
Insurance – Rep. Tina Pickett (R); Rep. Tony DeLuca (D)
Judiciary – Rep. Rob Kauffman (R); Rep. Tim Briggs (D)
Labor and Industry – Rep. Jim Cox (R); Rep. Patrick Harkins (D)
Liquor Control – Rep. Jeff Pyle (R); Rep. Dan Deasy (D)
Local Government – Rep. Dan Moul (R); Rep. Bob Freeman (D)
Professional Licensure – Rep. David Hickernell (R); Rep. Harry Readshaw (D)
State Government – Rep. Garth Everett (R); Rep. Kevin Boyle (D)
Tourism and Recreational Development – Rep. David Millard (R) Rep Mark Longietti (D)
Transportation – Rep. Tim Hennessey (R); Rep. Mike Carroll (D)
Urban Affairs – Rep. Sue Helm (R); Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (D)
Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness – Rep. Steve Barrar (R); Rep. Christopher Sainato (D)