Pam DeLissio shares some eyebrow-raising practices in Harrisburg.
Governing is a complex process and often constituents are not aware of the ‘zigs and zags’ that legislation can take on its way to either the Governor’s desk or the DOA (dead on arrival) pile.
I find many constituents are surprised at what is ‘normal process and procedure’ in Harrisburg and thought I would highlight some of those eyebrow-raising practices. Trust me, I’m not foolin’!
- An amendment that is voted into a bill with the express purpose of killing the bill is referred to as a poison pill.
- Occasionally (and in the past year with alarming frequency) we were on a six (6) hour Call of the Chair from July 22 through September 10. The ‘Call of the Chair’ refers to the amount of time we have to arrive in Harrisburg if session is called. Talk about a short leash.
- An amendment can be ruled as “not germane” to the legislation to which it is being proposed. In this instance, whether or not it is germane is decided by a simple majority of the House. In other words, if the majority party is concerned a ‘good amendment’ may pass, it will be subjected to a vote of the whole, and subsequently the amendment could be ruled “not germane.” This is not what germane means in normal life!
- When the House members cast a vote, the Speaker, in his/her judgment, decides when to close the vote. (In no event shall such time exceed ten minutes). Votes by the legislators are electronically displayed on two boards on the House Floor for all to see. In my 4 terms, I have seen the boards close in seconds and I have seen the boards remain open for minutes – depending on the ideal outcome the Speaker would like, e.g. the boards are held open if there are not sufficient votes as desired by the Speaker, and arm twisting continues. OUCH.
- I invented the hashtag #cluckfuster and use it when I am particularly dismayed or frustrated about events taking place on the floor of the House.
- The House calendar is published twice a year – usually in late October or November for January through June and again in late June for September through December. It makes planning vacations a year in advance impossible – unless you are willing to miss session; which I am not. The House calendar is also subject to change with not a lot of notice – which also wreaks havoc!
- A bill can be referred to any one of the twenty-four House standing committees; it does not have to be referred to an ‘obvious’ committee. E.g. an insurance related bill can go to the Transportation Committee or an education related bill can go to the Human Services Committee. The Speaker assigns all bills and they can be sent to a particular committee with the intention of being expedited or stalled.
- Gentlemen members of the House will not be recognized to speak unless attired in a jacket and tie. No comparable dictate exists for gentleladies. Personally, I do not think they ever anticipated women being elected; after all, less than 20% of the House are women after 336 years.
If this information has piqued your curiosity, please join me at my 72nd (no fooling) Town Hall meeting on April 25th at 10AM at Cathedral Village, 600 E. Cathedral Road. We will discuss how the legislature works in addition to the legislative priorities du jour.