There are a few bills now pending in the State Legislature which make for interesting reading. We noted three in today’s Update of legislative activity from the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
Senate Bill 133, previously introduced by Senator Argall (R-Schuykill County), has received its Second Consideration and has now been referred to the Appropriations Committee for its analysis of what fiscal impact it might have. The bill proposes that the State Constitution be amended to allow candidates for the office of Governor be allowed to choose their own running mates, so that the candidates for the offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor would campaign for election as a team, much as the President and Vice-President are permitted to do.
Pennsylvanians seem to have had discussions about modifying or even eliminating the Office of the Lieutenant Governor for some time. Earlier this year, Charles Gerow, a thoughtful opinion writer, commented in his column for PennLive (The Patriot News): “In human anatomy, vestigial organs, like the appendix, are those that have lost their original function and exist without much impact. In the body politic, several government ‘reformers’ are suggesting that the office of lieutenant governor is much the same.” He pointed out that some States smaller than Pennsylvania have fared well without a Lieutenant Governor. But he concluded that, although the Office appears to have minimal functions other than such duties as may be assigned by the Governor, Pennsylvania should probably maintain the Office, in light of several instances in which it became necessary for a Lieutenant Governor to ascend to the Office of Governor.
Whatever the fiscal impact of Senate Bill 133 might be, its proposal to amend the State Constitution may be a bit premature, until we’ve wrestled with exactly why the position of Lieutenant Governor was fashioned the way it has been.
Representative Thomas (D-Bucks County) has proposed an amendment to the State Constitution that would increase the length of a Senator’s term of office from 4 to 6 years and a Representative’s term of office from 2 to 4 years. In addition, the amendment would limit the terms of members of the House and Senate to three consecutive full terms. (That would be potentially 18 years of service for a Senator, and 12 years of service for a Representative). In her Memorandum introducing House Bill 902, she says, “By increasing the term length while setting term limits, my proposed amendment enables Pennsylvania to have fresh perspectives in government while allowing those members who are elected to focus on serving the people instead of worrying about reelection.” She further indicates that, A member of the House “who reaches the maximum number of consecutive terms, may seek election to the House after a hiatus two years, and a member of the Senate who reaches the maximum number of consecutive terms, can be eligible for election to the Senate after four years.”
One may wonder what rule would apply under the legislator’s proposed Constitutional amendment if a Representative chooses to resign one month before reaching the maximum number of consecutive terms and then runs for election to the Senate.
Representative Schlossberg (D-Lehigh County) has introduced House Bill 892, proposing that, because the form of a person’s written signature tends to change over time, the law should make it easier for voters to update their voter registration signature by submitting a voter registration application to the county board of elections. In his Memorandum introducing the proposal, he indicates, “It should be that simple.”
One may wonder how simple it might be for a voter to file another application if he or she should suffer a stroke the day after filing a previous application.
Modifying the rules by which we are governed, particularly when they involve changes to the structure of government, require both time and careful thought.