Late last night, Pennsylvania’s Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee voted on an amendment to Senate Bill 106, a bill proposing five unrelated constitutional amendments, including: the creation of a new government agency to “audit” elections; allowing candidates for governor to choose their own running mates; and removing state constitutional protections for Pennsylvanians seeking an abortion.
The full Senate is considering this bill now. Livestream is available at https://www.pasen.gov/video/senatevideo.cfm.
Passed in the middle of the night while most constituents were sleeping, out of a committee that never considers bills of this subject matter, and with little debate and no public input, these amendments make drastic changes to Pennsylvania’s constitution that require much more deliberation and discussion than what the Committee afforded.
Previous consideration of the bill also did not allow for robust public discourse.
Statement of Common Cause Pennsylvania Executive Director Khalif Ali
We are deeply disturbed that Pennsylvania’s Senate Republicans have again flouted the democratic process by amending a bill proposing constitutional amendments in the middle of the night. This is nothing more than a blatant attempt by partisan operatives to hijack the constitutional amendment process for their own benefit.
This is not the first time Senate Bill 106 has been amended in a process that was not open or transparent to avoid the governor’s veto pen. In December of last year, House Republicans amended SB106 at the last minute with very little debate and no opportunity for public input just before the House recessed for the holidays.
These constitutional amendments are not inconsequential. One amendment aims to make voting more difficult for low-income voters by imposing unnecessary voter ID requirements on top of the existing rules. Strict voter ID laws disproportionately impact Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander and other communities of color, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Our elected officials should be working to ensure that every eligible voter can cast a meaningful vote – not erecting barriers to the ballot box.
Another amendment to SB106 creates an unnecessary and expensive bureaucracy to duplicate the same election administration functions that counties already perform.
Republicans plan to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to place these measures on a municipal primary election ballot – where maybe one-in-five voters will see them and be able to voice their opinion on them. Each constitutional amendment costs around $2 million in advertising costs. So far, if passed as-is, SB106 will cost taxpayers $12 million before they even have a chance to vote on them.
And then the proposed Bureau of Election Audits would waste an additional $3 million of taxpayer dollars each year duplicating the election administration work already done by the Department of State – even though Pennsylvania already conducts robust post-election audits.
Any proposed amendment to Pennsylvania’s constitution should undergo rigorous and robust debate, not be slipped in under the cover of night or tacked on at the last minute before recess or break.
Pennsylvania deserves a legislature that respects the voice of the people and conducts itself in an open, honest, and transparent way. Instead, we see a small minority of partisan operatives disrespecting democratic norms and values that we as Pennsylvanians, and as Americans, have the right to expect from our elected officials.
We the People deserve better from our legislators than these procedural gymnastics. Pennsylvania voters want rigorous and well-reasoned debate, not late-night subterfuge and last minute maneuvers in the hopes that voters don’t notice. We noticed, and we are going to fight this with all the resources available to us.