FUMO INTRODUCES PACKAGE OF BILLS TO REFORM LEGISLATIVE PROCESS
HARRISBURG, April 19, 2006 – With a large, bipartisan group of co-sponsors, state Senator Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia) yesterday introduced a package of three bills aimed at reforming the manner in which legislation is publicized, considered and approved by the General Assembly. The goal is to open the legislative process to greater public examination and open debate before votes are taken.
Fumo and the public interest lobby Common Cause announced the proposal in concept last December. Since then, they have discussed the provisions with senators of both parties, and subsequently drafted three pieces of separate legislation.
One of the bills was introduced with 26 co-sponsors, and the other two with 24. All 20 Senate Democrats are sponsoring all three bills.
"It is very encouraging that we already have the support of half the Senate as the proposals are being introduced," said Fumo, a 28-year veteran of the Senate and a member of Democratic caucus leadership. "Senators recognize the need to give the public and rank-and-file members of the Legislature a chance to study and understand bills before they are voted upon."
"The legislation introduced by Sen. Fumo gives Pennsylvania citizens important tools for the never-ending work of holding power accountable," said Barry Kauffman, executive director of Pennsylvania Common Cause. "They provide rapid access to essential information citizens need for government oversight. They provide enhanced opportunities for citizens to give information and advice in the governing process -- and they even help lawmakers to do their jobs better by providing opportunities to make informed rather than forced or rushed decisions."
Senate Bill 102, which has 26 co-sponsors, would mandate that each vote taken in the House or Senate be posted on the Internet site of that particular chamber within 24 hours of the vote. Committee votes would have to be posted within 48 hours. The bill would also require the complete journal of each legislative session day to be posted on the Internet within 30 calendar days. It would further mandate that a Legislative Data Processing Committee maintain a publicly accessible database of the official version of all statutory laws of the Commonwealth. Currently, only private companies have maintained such databases.
Senate Bill 103, which also has 24 co-sponsors, would require that no bill be passed until it has been in its final form, as amended, for at least 72 hours. This is intended to prevent the gut-and-amend process by which a piece of legislation appears on the legislative calendar for three days as required by the state Constitution, then is amended at the 11th hour, often with dramatically different provisions than those contained in the original bill.
Similarly, no bill could be approved by a committee unless it has been in the considered form for at least 48 hours, and no amendment could be added to a bill in committee unless it has been publicly available for at least 24 hours.
The final version of any bill that would require the expenditure of state funds would have to be referred to the Appropriations Committee of either chamber and receive a fiscal note prior to passage.
The bill would also allow 10 percent of the elected members of either the House or Senate to sign a petition requiring a public hearing on the final version of any bill prior to passage.
Senate Bill 104, which has 24 co-sponsors, deals with enforcement of SB102 and SB103, and with other laws of the state concerning the manner in which bills are passed. It would grant legal standing to every adult resident of the Commonwealth to challenge in court, within one year of enactment of a bill, the legislature’s compliance with those legal requirements.
A news release containing more detail on the proposed provisions as they were announced by Fumo and Common Cause on December 14, 2005 can be read at : http://www.fumo.com/Press_Releases/LegisReform12-14-05.htm .
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