Pennsylvania House passes five constitutional amendments; bill heads back to state Senate

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved a bill that contains five constitutional amendments, which voters would decide as distinct ballot measures, on Dec. 15. In April, the state Senate approved the bill as a single constitutional amendment. Since the House changed the bill to include more constitutional amendments, the bill returns to the Senate for final first-session approval during the 2021-2022 legislative session. Topics include the lieutenant governor election, executive order time limits, legislative disapproval of regulations, election audits, and voter identification.

In Pennsylvania, constitutional amendments require legislative approval during two successive legislative sessions. The legislation would need to be approved again during the 2023-2024 legislative session before voters would decide the changes. The earliest possible date for the amendments is the spring municipal elections on May 16, 2023.

The original version of the bill was a constitutional amendment to allow a political party’s candidate for governor to choose their own candidate for lieutenant governor. Currently, a party’s nominees for governor and lieutenant governor run on a joint ticket during the general election but in separate primaries. On April 27, 2021, the Senate voted 43-4 to pass the bill. The four votes against the amendment were two Democrats and two Republicans. 

On Dec. 14, the House voted to add the four additional constitutional amendments to the bill. The lieutenant governor amendment also received a grammatical change. Votes on two amendments were along party lines, with all 113 Republicans supporting and all 90 Democrats opposing. On the other two amendments, one Democrat joined Republicans in supporting the changes. Along with the lieutenant governor amendment, the amended bill includes:

  • a constitutional amendment to provide that executive orders and proclamations with the force and effect of law cannot last more than 21 days without legislative approval; 
  • a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to pass a resolution, which the governor cannot veto, by a simple majority to disapprove regulations;
  • a constitutional amendment to require election audits, including elections administration, election machine certification, the list of registered voters, and election results; and
  • a constitutional amendment to require voter identification, regardless of the voting method.

In the 50-seat Senate, Democrats hold 21 seats, Republicans hold 28 seats, and an independent holds one seat.

Additional reading: