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Proposed Constitutional Amendments

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Legislation Creating Two-Year Window for Child Sexual Abuse Victims Will Take Priority in New Legislative Session, State News Service (Dec. 15, 2020). The State News Article: Senator Lisa Baker is introducing legislation to allow for the creation of a two-year window to the civil statute of limitations. The bill seeks to amend Article I, Section 11 of the Pennsylvania Constitution by permitting victims to submit a claim in civil court even if the statute of limitations has already expired. Because the proposed bill would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution, it must be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions and by voters in order to become law. This legislation was introduced prior to the failure of advertisement of the bill.

Ryan Byrne, Pennsylvania Voters Could Decide as Many as Eight Constitutional Amendments in 2021 or 2022, Ballotpedia News (Dec. 11, 2020). Ryan Byrne writes that Pennsylvanians could vote on more than eight ballot measures seeking to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution in the upcoming years. The measures include topics such as electoral and voting policies and Governor Wolf’s emergency powers. The state legislature must approve each amendment during two legislative sessions before it can appear on the statewide ballot.

Kara Seymour, Gov. Wolf Signs New Law, Vetoes 2 Bills, Patch (Dec. 2, 2020). Kara Seymour writes that Governor Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 21 which would have created a new license for home inspectors regulated by the State Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers, separate from the existing regulatory framework provided by Act 114 of 2000. In 2000, the Pennsylvania Home Inspection Law, Act 114 of 2000, was enacted for the purpose of providing a regulatory framework for home inspectors in Pennsylvania. Governor Wolf stated that, rather than “creating a new license class imposing new barriers,” lawmakers should evaluate existing law to improve upon that framework instead.

Nicholas Malfitano, Governor Wolf Vetoes Bill That Would Have Given Businesses Some Protection from COVID-19 Lawsuits, Pennsylvania Record (Dec. 2, 2020). Nicholas Malfitano writes that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 1737 which would have extended immunity protections from liability connected to COVID-19 to an array of healthcare entities and other businesses. According to Governor Wolf, the legislation “provides broad, overreaching immunity from civil liability during the current pandemic.” Governor Wolf further stated that the immunity protections should not be extended to those businesses that are not in compliance with government health orders.  

Kara Seymour, Gov. Wolf Vetoes 3 Bills Related to Firearms, Energy Production, Patch (Nov. 27, 2020). Kara Seymour writes that Governor Tom Wolf vetoed House Bills 1747 and 2440. House Bill 1747 sought to limit emergency powers related to firearms during emergencies. In his veto message, Governor Wolf said that, “the ongoing pandemic underscores the need for flexibility in the law to deal with unforeseen and unfathomable situations.” Furthermore, Governor Wolf stated that possessing the appropriate tools to protect Pennsylvanians from the various threats posed by disaster emergencies is critical. House Bill 2440 sought to designate shooting ranges and businesses relating to the sale and production of firearms and ammunition as “life-sustaining.” In his veto message, Governor Wolf stated that the bill represented “another meaningless attempt to alter the necessary tools for fighting the pandemic.”

Elaine Labalme, Governor Wolf Vetoes Bill That Favored Oil Interests Over Public Health and Safety, Environmental Defense Fund (Nov. 25, 2020). Elain Labalme writes that Governor Tom Wolf vetoed house Bill 790 which attempted to address the problems associated with the conventional oil and gas industry. Governor Wolf argued that the bill does not adequately protect the environment and the public health and safety of the citizens of Pennsylvania and would contribute to a legacy of environmental degradation.

Kara Seymour, Wolf Vetoes COVID-19 Death Reporting Bill, Patch (Nov. 6, 2020). Kara Seymour writes that Governor Wolf vetoed House Bill 1164, which would require county coroners to be notified of any suspected deaths in their jurisdiction that may be related to COVID-19. Due to the increase in COVID-19 deaths across Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf argued that the bill would have delayed reporting and access to public health information, and ultimately jeopardize public safety.

Neil Strebig, Gov. Wolf Vetoes PA. Restaurant Bill, Advocate Groups Ask General Assembly to Override Veto, York Daily Record (Oct. 19, 2020). Neil Strebig writes that Governor Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 2513 which would help eliminate self-certification for restaurants and lessen indoor service restrictions. Currently, restaurants must apply for state certification in order to operate at 50 percent indoor capacity. Despite being met with criticism by some restaurant owners, Governor Wolf argued that this bill jeopardized public health and safety and could lead to an increase in COVID-19 outbreaks.

Notice of Veto; House Bill 2787, Printer’s No. 4334, 2020 WLNR 28161912 (Oct. 3, 2020). Governor Wolf returned House Bill 2787, Printer’s Number 4334, without his approval. The Bill would allow sports and extracurricular activities to occur during the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Wolf writes that we must continue to prioritize the health and welfare. Additionally, Governor Wolf writes that this Bill has constitutional infirmities because it attempts to take away executive authority.

Maria Michalos. PA Governor Wolf Vetoes Legislation to Block Climate Action (Sept. 24, 2020). Maria Michalos writes that Governor Wolf returned House Bill 2025, Printer’s Number 3907, without his approval. The Governor determined that the proposed legislation is extremely harmful to public health and welfare because it prevents the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection from taking measures to abate, control or limit carbon dioxide emissions without prior approval from the General Assembly.

John Finnerty, State Senate Oks Possible Constitution Changes, Daily Item (July 16, 2020). John Finnerty writes that the Senate has passed, and the House has already approved, a bill dividing the Supreme Court, the Superior Court, and the Commonwealth Court into judicial districts. The bill aims to ensure a broader range of regional interests are represented. Because the bill is amending the Pennsylvania Constitution, it must pass each chamber twice in consecutive legislative sessions before being presented to voters in a ballot referendum.

Leach Proposes Constitutional Ban on Fracking, State News Service (July 2, 2020). State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) proposed a constitutional amendment banning hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania. The announcement came after Attorney General Shapiro released a special grand jury report detailing the harms inflicted by the fracking industry on the residents of Pennsylvania.

White Introduces Constitutional Amendment to Allow Voter Recalls, State News Service (July 1, 2020). Representative Martina White (R-Philadelphia) introduced an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution to allow for the recall of elected officials who oversee local or state executive branches, agencies or departments. Pennsylvania currently has no recall provisions.

Senate Approves Senator Ward’s Constitutional Amendment Requiring a Legislative Vote on Extended Disaster Declarations, State News Service (June 10, 2020). The Pennsylvania Senate approved a proposed constitutional amendment by Senator Kim Ward (R-39) that limits future emergency disaster declarations to 30 days unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly. Under current statutory law, an emergency declaration by the governor can last up to 90 days and be renewed by him indefinitely.

Senators Introduce Constitutional Amendment Requiring Legislative Approval of Emergency Disaster Proclamations Beyond 30 Days, State News Service (May 5, 2020). Several Republican state senators introduced legislation for a constitutional amendment providing equal power distribution among the three branches of government during emergency disaster declarations. To amend the Pennsylvania Constitution, the measure must pass two consecutive legislative sessions and be approved by voters through a ballot referendum.

Martin’s Ballot Modernization Bill Earns Final Approval, State News Service (Apr. 28, 2020). A proposed constitutional amendment passed the House and the Senate that would eliminate existing state law requiring a separate ballot or column on voting machines when voting for the retention of judges, justices, and justices of the peace. Because the action would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution, an identical action must be taken during the 2021-2022 Legislative Session before the issue can be decided by voters.

1stStep to Stopping Delinquent Officials House OKs Constitutional Amendment to Create a Way to Remove No-Show Elected Officers, Morning Call (July 1, 2019). A bill of amendment has passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that would give local officials a way to remove elected officers for dereliction of duty. This includes being chronically absent from municipal meetings. Lucy Perkins, SCOTUS Gerrymandering Decision Doesn’t Affect PA.’s New Congressional Map, Philadelphia Business Journal (June 28, 2019). Lucy Perkins discusses a recent case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that federal courts have no authority to determine whether partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. However, this ruling will not affect Pennsylvania, as the state has already passed its own rulings on the unconstitutionality of partisan gerrymandering.

Gregory Announces House Passage of PA Hidden Predator Act, States News Service (April 10, 2019). The State News Service reports that Gregory’s House Bill 963 passed the House of Representatives.  This bill requires an amendment to Article 1, Section 11 of the Pennsylvania Constitution because it creates a two-year window to submit claims of childhood sexual abuse in civil court if the statute of limitations has already expired for that victim.

Victims’ Rights Amendment: https://www.aclu.org/other/aclu-fact-sheet-proposed-victims-rights-amendment