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State House needs reform

Who decides what bills become laws in Pennsylvania? Is the voice of the people heard? Does every Representative have a fair say? On the first day of every Legislative Session, legislators vote to set the rules that answer these and other key questions.

Those who write the rules might consider such things as:Should a bill cosponsored by more than half of the members of the PA House of Representatives, representing both major parties, for example, automatically get a vote in Committee and then on the floor of the House?

Should a bill that passes the House or the Senate automatically get a vote in the other chamber?

Should bills with demonstrated public support, as shown by petitions, local government resolutions, letters to the editor, editorials, and polling, be taken up by Committee and then voted on the floor?

You might say, “Well, yes, sounds reasonable to me.”

But in Pennsylvania, under the rules of recent sessions, the answer to all these questions is, “no.”

The rules in recent House of Representatives sessions require none of those things, but give the Chairperson of each committee complete control over which bills are placed on the agenda for Committee discussion and vote.

And in most cases, the Speaker of the House or the Majority Leader of the Senate can block even those bills that have had favorable committee votes from coming to a vote on the floor.

Our State Rep. Kathy Rapp has voted in favor of these rules in the last two sessions.

When the rules allow only the Majority Party leaders to decide which bills receive opportunity for debate and a vote, we the people can’t see where our representatives stand on important issues with broad public support because these matters never come up for debate, let alone a vote.

When our representatives support rules such as these on the first day of a session, they have voted away their chance to represent our district in cases where the interests of our district don’t line up with the interests of the majority party leaders.

Now is a very good time to reform the rules of the PA Legislature, before the next session begins on January 5.

Please write to Representative Kathy Rapp. Ask her to vote “no” on rules like those of the last two sessions.

Ask her to work with good government groups and others to reform the rules so that good legislation gets a fair debate and a vote in Pennsylvania.

Susan L. Stout is secretary of the League of Women Voters of Women Voters of Warren County

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