Pennsylvania Senate Republicans successfully pushed through a set of proposed constitutional amendments on Wednesday that, if passed by the state House, would appear before Keystone State voters on primary ballots in May.
The trio of proposals in Senate Bill 1 (SB1) include:
- Voter ID: Requiring that both in-person and mail-in voters have unexpired government-issued identification;
- Regulatory Override: Authorizing the Legislature to block regulations issued by executive branch agencies with a simple majority; and
- Statute of Limitations Extension: Allowing victims of childhood sexual abuse to seek legal redress for a period of two years.
“Today, with passage of Senate Bill 1, the Senate has fulfilled and completed our commitment to provide voters with a direct voice on voter identification, legislative review of regulations and opening the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse survivors through constitutional amendments,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) and Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Armstrong/Indiana/Jefferson/ Westmoreland) in a statement.
“Advancing these three issues through constitutional amendments allows the matters to be put on the ballot and ultimately answered by the voters. The language approved in Senate Bill 1 is identical to the language that was passed during the 2021-22 legislative session and published in every corner of the Commonwealth for voters to read, review and provide feedback to their legislators.”
Democrats have long supported the measure concerning child sexual abuse but have strenuously objected to the others.
“As a long-time advocate of justice for sexual abuse survivors, I am disappointed but not surprised that Republicans chose to prioritize their own legislative agenda instead of finally delivering justice to victims,” said Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny).
“Once again, sexual abuse survivors are burdened with another tragedy orchestrated by the Republican Party amending the opportunity for justice into legislation that has little chance to become law. This is yet another sad day for victims.”
Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) moved to divide the bill into three separate motions but his motion was tabled by the GOP-controlled body, 27-21.
Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh/Northampton) attempted to include amendments on three separate occasions to SB1 – adding language regarding reproductive freedom, eliminating property taxes, and prohibition of individual rights – only to have all three tabled by a 27-21 vote.
The chamber passed the entire measure, 28-20, with Boscola crossing party lines to support the GOP bill.
Republicans have resorted to legislation through constitutional amendments in recent years as a method for an end-around the veto pen of outgoing Gov. Tom Wolf.
“Voters should decide these issues through the state constitutional amendment process,” said Sen. Mike Regan (R-Cumberland/York) said. “I trust the voters and believe they should have the final say on these issues.”
Democratic Governor-elect Josh Shapiro, who is slated to be sworn in as the state’s 48th leader on Tuesday, cannot veto proposed constitutional amendments.
“Passing multiple constitutional amendments in one bill, which are then presented to voters as separate questions, is not a new concept and has been utilized in prior sessions,” said Ward and Pittman. “Senate Bill 1 will be delivered to the House, and we look forward to their swift action to ensure the people of Pennsylvania will be presented with these questions in May.”
Speaking after a tour of the Pennsylvania Farm Show, Shapiro said “clearly this is going to have to be a negotiation between the House and the Senate.” He told the Associated Press, “We’re going to have a reset when I’m governor. We’re going to talk again and we’re going to find some common ground; where we have disagreements, we’re going to work at it and try to find that common ground. We’re going to get back to legislating again.”
Wolf’s administration said the Legislature must pass the measures in the coming weeks to allow time for the constitutionally required advertising of the ballot questions in newspapers and for ballot wording to be written and approved by the state attorney general’s office.