Pennsylvania House adjourns, package of constitutional amendments won’t appear on the May ballot

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives adjourned on January 24, 2023, affecting a package of three constitutional amendments that could have appeared on ballot for May 16, 2023. 

According to the Department of State, the Pennsylvania General Assembly needed to have the amendments passed by Friday, January 27, to appear on the May ballot. The deadline in the Pennsylvania Constitution to pass and advertise the proposed amendments is February 16, and according to the Department of State, the Legislature needed to have already passed the package of amendments in order to give the newspapers time to advertise them.

The next possible election for the amendments to be placed on the ballot for Pennsylvania voters is the November 2023 general election.

The three amendments were passed in the previous legislative session at different periods. The first amendment would create a two-year period for individuals to file civil suits regarding childhood sexual abuse that have otherwise exceeded the statute of limitations. This was introduced as House Bill 14 (HB 14) and passed both the Pennsylvania House and Senate in March of 2021.

The other two amendments were part of a package of five amendments, known as Senate Bill 106 (SB 106), that passed in July 2022. Two of these amendments—one requiring voters to present a voter ID when casting their ballot, and another that allows the state legislature to pass concurrent resolutions, which the governor cannot veto, to disapprove of regulations—were packaged with the amendment regarding child sexual abuse lawsuits as Senate Bill 1 (SB 1). SB 1 passed the Senate on January 11, 2023. Twenty-eight senators, 27 Republicans and 1 Democrat, voted for the package, while 20 senators, all of them Democrats, voted against the package (1 Democrat did not vote). The package of amendments was passed by the Senate, but the process came to a stalemate in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R) said, “There is no reason for the House of Representatives to reject Senate Bill 1 — unless whoever is running the House of Representatives seems to think there’s a political reason that two of the three questions should not be put before the voters.”

Pennsylvania House Speaker Mark Rozzi (D), said that the amendment regarding child sexual abuse lawsuits should be passed individually. “If it gets on the ballot, it’s going to be on the ballot by itself, not with these other constitutional amendments,” said Rozzi.

Currently, in Pennsylvania, the Democratic Party controls the governor’s office, while the Republican Party controls the State Senate. Neither party controls a majority of seats in the House. Republicans hold a plurality of seats. There are 101 Republicans and 99 Democrats in the House, with a Democrat serving as House speaker. There are 3 vacancies in the House of Representatives, which will be filled with special elections occurring in Allegheny County on February 7. If Democrats win those seats, Democrats will have a majority – 102 seats – in the House.

In Pennsylvania, constitutional amendments require legislative approval during two successive legislative sessions before they’re referred to the ballot for voters to decide. Because these amendments were approved by both chambers of the state legislature in the last legislative session, and by the Senate in this session, they would need to pass the House before they could appear on the ballot.

Due to the adjournment of the House and the passing of the Department of State deadline, the earliest election for these amendments to appear on the ballot is during the November 2023 general election.

The House is expected to reconvene on February 27, 2023.