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PA Republicans May Rush Major Reform Through House/Spotlight PA

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HARRISBURG — Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives could hold functional majority Until at least mid-February, thanks to a vacancy in the Democratic Party – and they’re considering using that advantage to pass a handful of broad constitutional amendments.

The strategy is consistent with Republican leaders seeking to delay special elections in two districts of Democratic-dominated Allegheny County for as long as they are legally permitted. On Thursday, Republican Party leader Brian Cutler (R, Lancaster) attempted to formally mandate a special election day for these constituencies on his May 16th.

This is the latest date allowed by state law. Democrats were quick to criticize the move, saying that even after the Democrats won more seats in the midterm elections, the Republican Party was trying to delay the switch to the minority party, arguing that they were “playing politics and extremist.” We are trying to make it possible to ‘bang the policy of

Overheated rhetoric isn’t the only concern.

There are tweets within the caucus about plans to use their early advantage to pass at least two amendments to voters in May 2023, according to Republican lawmakers and lobbyists at hand. A legislative body that nullifies regulation.

“It makes sense,” said one House Republican, who asked to remain anonymous to speak about the internal discussions.

But the Republican Party’s most prominent and most controversial amendment hasn’t passed. Four of his sources in the Republican Party told Spotlight PA that after the backlash in November’s election, the Republican Party will not attempt to pass an amendment to secure the state constitution. Does not protect access to abortion.

“The people I run with remember Election Day and [abortion] A constitutional amendment would be a really stupid idea,” a skeptical House Republican told Spotlight PA.

At a press conference on Monday, Cutler acknowledged that the party’s dominance may not last long, but said he would create an agenda anyway.

“It’s going to be a shortened window … so it’s going to be a little bit more difficult in terms of getting the committee up and running,” Cutler said. I will work for

Cutler did not answer specific questions about the amendment, and a House Republican spokesperson referred Cutler’s comments to Spotlight PA.

Democratic Party 102 seats won On Election Day — a one-seat advantage in a 203-seat House. But with the death of one Democrat and two of his resignations for higher office, he now has 99 Democrats and 101 Republicans.

Both parties claim the power to schedule special elections to fill vacancies. Democrats have him scheduled for February 7th. Republicans have him once on the same day and two more in May’s primary.

If the Democrats get their way, they will win a majority in February. If Republicans do so, the House will likely be in a 100-100 split at some point in the month, delaying most action from either party until May.

controversy is coming in court.

Republicans also retain control of the state Senate, which will allow them to rush legislation through the first few weeks of next year’s session before the Democrats regain control, possibly by winning 102 seats. There is a possibility.

All three Allegheny County special elections are held in districts where Democrats usually win in double digits.

revised agenda

Republicans have turned more and more to constitutional reform in recent years to advance their policy goals, as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolfe’s veto power has hampered many of their priorities.

Amendments must be passed in two consecutive years at two Congresses in the same format before they are sent to the voters who have the final say. They usually say yes.

In early July, the General Assembly Comprehensive Bill with 5 AmendmentsIn addition to abortion measures, the package also:

  • Requiring voters to present identification whenever they vote in person or to attach identification when voting by mail;

  • Requires an annual election audit by the State Auditor General.

  • Allow the General Assembly to block regulation by a simple majority vote, rather than a two-thirds majority.

  • Allows governor candidates to choose their own lieutenant governor candidates.

The governor has no say in passing amendments, and voters mostly approve them. In 2021, Republicans passed two amendments that stripped Wolf of his pandemic-era emergency powers.

The Democrats’ astonishing House flip-flop seemed to hamper progress on the amendment. But recent uncertainties have prompted some Republicans in general to say they are prepared to use that advantage to bring several amendments before voters by May 2023. says.

Voter ID support expanded

Notably, all of the Spotlight PA Republican legislators expressed their support for the voter ID amendment.

Rep. Jesse Topper (R. Bedford) said: “What do people want? Will that help secure elections?”

Opinion polls show broad support among both parties to expanding voter ID requirements. Topper added that if such amendments “bring confidence” to state voting systems, they “could open the door for other deals” in other parts of election law.

However, if Republicans go ahead with modifying voter IDs, they will face fierce opposition from voting rights groups.

Kadida Kenner, executive director of the New Pennsylvania Project, a nonprofit that registers new voters, said the need for voters to include identification when they vote by mail means that thousands of people without access to scanners and printers will be able to vote. He said it would likely strip people of their rights. A copy of the ID — let alone someone who doesn’t have an ID in the first place.

“We know it’s popular and most Pennsylvanians will pass stricter ID laws,” Kenner said.

Without a deal to expand the franchise with early voting, automated voter registration and same-day registration, Kenner said she and her supporters would “fight like Dickens to keep this from reaching the ballot.” .

small change, big result

Republicans may also be eyeing an amendment that would give them more say in the state’s regulatory process.

Since taking office in 2015, Wolf has used this process to limit carbon emissions from power plants, expand oversight of charter schools and nursing homes, and formalize non-discrimination protection for LGBTQ people. Did. From time to time those changes were implemented. Also, Wolf exchanged his proposal for another (such as an increase in education funding) during budget negotiations.

One Republican characterized support for regulatory reform as “less enthusiastic” than voter ID reform.

Still, groups such as the Planned Parenthood PA believe they have significant stakes in the volatile debate over how to approve new regulations.

In a statement, Signe Espinoza, executive director of the Reproductive Health Organization, said giving the General Assembly greater powers in the regulatory process could affect access to abortion.

“If this passes, they can and probably will use it to end regulations allowing clinics to provide abortion care,” Espinoza said. It may not be clear as a constitutional amendment to deny the right to abortion,’ but the end result is the same: we lose the right to health care we’ve had for nearly 50 years.”

Most Republicans Spotlight PA said they would not try to advance the abortion amendment. Access protection Abortion has been central to Democrats in many key legislative elections that Democrats have won.

The Republican party also had no room for error with 101 votes, and three Republicans from suburban Philadelphia were re-elected this year. voted against Revised in the summer.

“Whatever we do, we need unanimous support,” said Topper. “Obviously there will be restrictions on what can be moved, but that’s up to the leadership team.”

The strategy also requires the buy-in of the Republican senators who introduced the constitutional package.

At a press conference announcing the new leadership team last month, Senate Speaker Pro Tempoa Kim Ward (R. Westmoreland) made no promises.

“We can sit down with the new administration and discuss these constitutional changes,” Ward said, “but we’re not quite there yet. It’s early.”

A spokesperson for the incoming administration, led by Democrat Josh Shapiro, declined to comment on possible amendments.

House Democratic spokesperson Nicole Reigelman said in a statement that “Pennsylvanians across the state are concerned about pranks,” and that if Cutler controls the legislative agenda, Cutler could start. can.

“Given that his caucuses enacted the abortion ban and voter ID corrections at midnight on the Friday before summer vacation, standard practices of good governance apply when Republican leaders are in charge. We know it won’t,” added Reigelman.

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https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2022/12/republicans-pa-house-control-constitional-amendments-abortion/ PA Republicans May Rush Major Reform Through House/Spotlight PA

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