Final stretch run leads to reform package. The General Assembly finally adjourned for its summer recess this week which is expected to last until September 15. But before breaking, the legislative activity mainly focused on passing a series of proposed constitutional amendments.

The first would affect how all justices to the state Superior, Commonwealth, and Supreme Courts are elected. Currently this occurs on a statewide basis. The amendment, if approved, would create judicial districts with justices being elected on a regional basis.

The second action was a number of constitutional amendments passed by the General Assembly this week that would significantly change how governors implement disaster declarations. One proposed amendment would limit the span of disaster declarations to 21 days, which could then only be extended if approved by the legislature. Another amendment would permit legislators to terminate a disaster declaration without approval from the governor. Finally, the same amendment—in an effort garner bipartisan support—a third amendment would include a proposal prohibiting the denial of rights based on race or ethnicity.

In Pennsylvania, constitution amendments require the passage in the same form by both chambers of the legislature in two consecutive sessions. If that occurs, it will then be placed on the ballot for voters to decide on. Both these matters were passed this session and could be passed again next year and placed on the ballot as early as the Primary Election of May 2021.

The late Representative Rick Geist remembered. The House unanimously passed House Bill 2191 this week. The bill honors the late and longtime state representative Richard A. “Rick” Geist by naming a bridge outside of his hometown, Altoona, in his honor. Geist passed away in November 2019 and was one of the longest serving House Transportation Committee Chairmen in history. Geist’s love for transportation and the health of the highway construction industry was well known. Geist never shied away from voting for legislation to bolster the state’s transportation revenues because he knew it was vital to the economic prosperity of the Commonwealth. The bill now moves to the Senate for its consideration when they return in the fall.