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Commonwealth Court Passes On Constitutional Bundle Challenge

PA Judicial Center

There are cable bundles. And then there are constitutional bundles.

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court dealt with the latter on Monday, dismissing a challenge on how state lawmakers have combined five potential state constitutional amendments. Its rationale – essentially, we do not have to rule right now.

In an opinion from Judge Lori A. Dumas, the court concluded that given the present legislative posture of Senate Bill 106, the claims of former Gov. Tom Wolf and his Secretary of the Commonwealth – Leigh Chapman – are not ripe for judicial intervention. Another round of General Assembly approval is still needed before SB 106 can move forward.

“If every alleged misstep in the constitutional amendment process resulted in a lawsuit, then the potential exists for protracted, piecemeal litigation, which could potentially conflict with election-related deadlines,” she said in an 12-page order.

Wolf had argued the bundling ran afoul of state constitutional rules that prevent combining changes with multiple, unrelated topics.

Pennsylvania requires constitutional amendments to pass both chambers in two consecutive two-year sessions before a referendum can appear before voters.

One proposed amendment would state the Pennsylvania Constitution does not guarantee any rights relating to abortion or public funding of abortions. The former governor argued that was “deceptively compound” and should require two separate votes – one regarding the right to an abortion and a second on public funding. Others in the bundle would require that all voters to show IDs, let gubernatorial candidates choose their own running mates, give lawmakers a way to cancel regulations without facing a veto and establish election audits by the state auditor general.

In January, state Senate Republicans used their 27-22 majority at the time to push through a different version of the bundled amendments, addressing voter ID and the governor’s power over regulations, and added an amendment that had previously passed both chambers by itself, giving victims of child sexual abuse a new chance to sue perpetrators.

Abortion, running mates and election audits were not part of the new amendment bundle.

The amendments’ passage is uncertain with the state House flipping to Democratic control last November.

2 Responses

  1. Bundling of amendments is, or at least should be, illegal. Every amproposed amendment should be clean, singular, and unambiguous. It should be voted on its own merits only.


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