For two months, Democrats and left-wing activists stonewalled the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to prevent a vote on the voter ID and regulatory review constitutional amendments – keeping these measures from going before voters in May. Mark Rozzi, the former Speaker, refused to let session begin – going so far as locking representatives out of the House chamber – until the Democrats gained a clear majority.
This inaction not only prevented voter ID and legislative review of regulations from going before voters but also kept an amendment – supported by Rozzi – that would have provided legal relief for victims of childhood sexual abuse from making the May primary ballot.
The purpose of these delay tactics is clear. Preventing the voter identification and regulatory review amendments is the top priority of House Democrats, even if it comes at the expense of doing their job or supporting popular, bipartisan legislation.
Shortly following the November election, left-wing political consultants and special interests – noting multiple vacancies in the closely split House – began to work against the proposed constitutional amendments and pressured Democrats to delay any action. Rozzi, who resigned last month, and now-Speaker Joanna McClinton took their marching orders and adjourned the House for weeks on end.
In contrast, the Pennsylvania Senate got to work immediately, passing the three constitutional amendments in Senate Bill 1 that, if approved by voters, would require voter ID; provide legislative review of regulations; and allow victims of childhood abuse to sue for damages beyond the statute of limitations.
Rozzi claimed that the statute of limitations reform was his priority, but his actions unilaterally blocked it from the May ballot. He put politics over justice for victims.
It took until March 1 before House leadership allowed a single bill to be introduced.
Rozzi’s excuse for the delay was that it allowed him to conduct a statewide “listening tour” regarding new rules for the House. His tour was nothing more than a political delay tactic to prevent a vote on the amendments.
House Democrats ignored virtually every suggestion from the listening tour. A common theme from the listening tour was that voters want more floor votes on bipartisan bills – exactly what House Democrats prevented. The new rules actually make it more difficult for members to circumvent the power of House leadership and committee chairs.
It was only until Democrats filled the House vacancies – and took control of the chamber – that they were willing to get back to work. But McClinton and House Democrats continue to block votes and debate on the amendments. The House’s first organized committee – Judiciary – promptly stripped voter ID and regulatory review out of SB 1.
Despite this effort, McClinton will have a difficult time preventing a vote on this popular, bipartisan legislation over the next two years.
Pennsylvania has a lengthy and transparent process for state constitutional amendments – which requires passage of identical language in two consecutive legislative sessions – and only a few ever make their way through both chambers of the legislature.
Yet an overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians – 86% – support voter ID laws. Currently, 35 states require an ID to vote, and research confirms that these requirements have no negative impact on turnout. Voter ID helps protect electoral integrity and boosts people’s confidence in the democratic process.
Voters also support regulatory review. A February 2023 poll found that Pennsylvanians across the board believed that elected officials, not bureaucrats, should make laws and regulations.
Likewise, both the voter ID and regulatory review amendments have received bipartisan legislative support. This includes stand-alone votes in the House and Senate on voter ID and votes on the package of amendments, with bipartisan support in both chambers, following long debate, going back nearly two years.
The House should listen to the voices of Pennsylvanians, and the best way to do that is to let voters decide on the constitutional amendments. Instead of wasting time and resources on the dysfunction in Harrisburg, the new Speaker and House leadership should allow representatives to pass all three amendments – leaving the final decision on each one with the people.
It’s time to stop playing politics and let the people vote.
Nathan Benefield is Senior Vice President of the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free-market think tank.