The Pennsylvania House of Representatives took historic steps earlier this month to allow the chamber to do its part to help slow the spread of COVID-19 while no longer requiring all members to be present on the House floor.
Members voted unanimously to adopt a rule change that strengthens the body’s ability to take efficient and effective legislative action during these difficult times.
“Under our current rules, members must be present in the Capitol to vote on legislation. We had to convene a quorum of members in Harrisburg today to vote to change our rules,” Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said. “Under the new rules, members can vote on bills before the House and in committees without leaving their districts.”
The rules changes will be reflected in three separate ways:
- Allowing designated voting. Under this temporary rule, members will notify their party’s whip of their voting position on legislation, and the whip, or a member designated by the whip, will file a member’s vote on the House floor. As for the floor itself, only the speaker, leaders, whips or designated members to those positions would need to be present. The process is the same for committee votes, with the relevant party chairperson collecting the votes ahead of a scheduled vote.
- Suspension of legislative time requirements. This temporary rule shortens all required wait periods related to legislation to three hours. Specifically, the 24-hour posting requirement for bills before a committee is now three hours, the 12-hour requirement after a bill is amended on second consideration is now three hours, and the six-hour wait requirement for a bill to be voted on concurrence is now three hours.
- Blackout mailing period adjustment. Under current rules, no legislative mailing can be sent out within 60 days of an election. The temporary rule passed today lifts the restrictions to allow members to send electronic communications related strictly to COVID-19 information.
“We are living in a worldwide event of the magnitude many of us have never experienced. Leaders at state, federal and local levels are working constantly to stay ahead of the next development and keep their communities safe and operating,” Cutler said. “These important rule changes will allow our chamber to be a part of the solution and keep the voice of our constituents at the forefront of every decision made in Harrisburg.”
The rule changes will expire at the end of the emergency declaration or if the declaration is