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Pennsylvania General Assembly
Coat of arms
Type
Type
HousesSenate
House of Representatives
Term limits
None
History
FoundedMay 5, 1682; 341 years ago (1682-05-05)
Preceded byPennsylvania Provincial Assembly
New session started
January 3, 2023 (2023-01-03)
Leadership
Austin Davis (D)
since January 17, 2023 (2023-01-17)
Kim Ward (R)
since January 3, 2023 (2023-01-03)
Senate Majority Leader
Joe Pittman (R)
since January 3, 2023 (2023-01-03)
Joanna McClinton (D)
since February 28, 2023 (2023-02-28)
House Majority Leader
Matthew Bradford (D)
since February 28, 2023 (2023-02-28)
Structure
Seats253
Senate political groups
Majority
  •   Republican (28)

Minority

House political groups
Majority

Minority

Vacancy

Length of term
Senate: 4 years
House: 2 years
Salary$102,844/year + per diem
Senators
50
State Representatives
203
Elections
First-past-the-post
First-past-the-post
Last Senate election
November 8, 2022 (2022-11-08)
(even-numbered districts)
Last House election
November 8, 2022 (2022-11-08)
Next Senate election
November 5, 2024 (2024-11-05)
(odd-numbered districts)
Next House election
November 5, 2024 (2024-11-05)
Redistrictingpolitician commission
Motto
Virtue, Liberty and Independence
Meeting place
Pennsylvania State Capitol, Harrisburg
Website
www.legis.state.pa.us
Constitution
Constitution of Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania General Assembly is the legislature of the U.S. commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The legislature convenes in the State Capitol building in Harrisburg. In colonial times (1682–1776), the legislature was known as the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly and was unicameral. Since the Constitution of 1776, the legislature has been known as the General Assembly. The General Assembly became a bicameral legislature in 1791. As of 2024, it is the only state legislature in the country in which Democrats and Republicans each control one chamber.[1]

Membership

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The General Assembly has 253 members, consisting of a Senate with 50 members and a House of Representatives with 203 members, making it the second-largest state legislature in the nation, behind New Hampshire, and the largest full-time legislature.

Senators are elected for a term of four years. Representatives are elected for a term of two years.[2] The Pennsylvania general elections are held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in even-numbered years. A vacant seat must be filled by special election, the date of which is set by the presiding officer of the respective house.

Senators must be at least 25 years old, and Representatives at least 21 years old. They must be citizens and residents of the state for a minimum of four years and reside in their districts for at least one year. Individuals who have been convicted of felonies, including embezzlement, bribery, and perjury, are ineligible for election; the state Constitution also adds the category of "other infamous crimes," which can be broadly interpreted by state courts. No one who has been previously expelled from the General Assembly may be elected.[3]

Legislative districts are drawn every ten years, following the U.S. Census. They are drawn by a five-member commission, of which four members are the majority and minority leaders of each house (or their delegates). The fifth member, who chairs the committee, is appointed by the other four and may not be an elected or appointed official. If the leadership cannot decide on a fifth member, the State Supreme Court may appoint him or her.

While in office, legislators may not hold civil office. Even if a member resigns, the Constitution states that the legislator may not be appointed to civil office for the duration of the term to which the legislator was elected.

Legislative sessions

The title page of Laws of Pennsylvania, published in 1853

The General Assembly is a continuing body within the term for which its representatives are elected. It convenes at 12 o'clock noon on the first Tuesday of January each year and then meets regularly throughout the year.[4] Both houses adjourn on November 30 in even-numbered years, when the terms of all members of the House and half the members of the Senate expire. Neither body can adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other.[5]

The governor may call a special session in order to press for legislation on important issues. As of 2017, only 35 special sessions have been called in the history of Pennsylvania.[6]

The Assembly meets in the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, which was completed in 1906. Under the Pennsylvania Constitution, the Assembly must meet in the City of Harrisburg and can move only if given the consent of both chambers.

History

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has a lengthy history as one of the most openly corrupt state legislatures in the United States, going back over two centuries to the era of the Thirteen Colonies.[7] In 1794, while visiting western Pennsylvania, Alexander Hamilton wrote to Rufus King: "The political putrefaction of Pennsylvania is greater than I had any idea of".[7][8]

During the 19th century, the culture of corruption in the General Assembly got so bad that from 1866 to 1873, about 8,700 of 9,300 acts passed in that timeframe were local or special acts.[9] The frustration of the people of the Commonwealth with its legislature finally boiled over in 1871 and resulted in a 1873 constitutional convention and a 1874 constitutional amendment.[9] One of the amendment's reforms was to prohibit the General Assembly from writing statutes covering more than one subject.[9]

Unfortunately, the amendment (today found at Section 3 of Article III of the Pennsylvania Constitution) was so poorly written that it also prevented the General Assembly from undertaking a comprehensive codification of the Commonwealth's statutes until another amendment was pushed through in 1967 to provide the necessary exception.[10] This is why today, Pennsylvania is the only U.S. state that has not yet completed a comprehensive codification of its general statutory law. Since 1970, Pennsylvania has been undertaking its first official codification process,[11] resulting in the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes.[12][13] With over 300 years of uncodified statutes to go through, the codification process is still not yet complete after over five decades of work.

General assembly leadership, 2023–2024

Pennsylvania State Senate

President Pro Tempore: Kim Ward (R)

Majority Party (R)[14] Leadership Position Minority Party (D)[15]
Joe Pittman Floor Leader Jay Costa
Ryan Aument Whip Anthony H. Williams
Kristin Phillips-Hill Caucus Chairperson Wayne Fontana
Camera Bartolotta Caucus Secretary Maria Collett
Scott Martin Appropriations Committee Chairperson Vincent Hughes
Lisa Baker Caucus Administrator Judy Schwank
Mario Scavello Policy Committee Chairperson Katie Muth

Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Speaker of the House of Representatives: Joanna McClinton (D)

Majority Party (D)[16] Leadership Position Minority Party (R)[17]
Matthew Bradford Floor Leader Bryan Cutler
Dan Miller Whip Donna Oberlander
Mike Schlossberg Caucus Chairperson George Dunbar
Tina Davis Caucus Secretary Martina White
Jordan Harris Appropriations Committee Chairperson Stan Saylor
Leanne Krueger Caucus Administrator Kurt Masser
Ryan Bizzarro Policy Committee Chairperson Martin Causer

See also

References

  1. ^ "2023 State & Legislative Partisan Composition" (PDF). National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved December 29, 2023.
  2. ^ "Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" (PDF). Pennsylvania General Assembly. pp. Article II Section 3: Terms of Members. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  3. ^ "CONSTITUTION OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA: Article II - The Legislature". Pennsylvania Constitution Web Page of the Duquesne University School of Law. Duquesne University School of Law. February 11, 2010. Archived from the original on August 14, 2012. Retrieved February 11, 2010.
  4. ^ "Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" (PDF). pp. Article II Section 4: Sessions. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  5. ^ "Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" (PDF). pp. Article II Section 14: Adjournments.
  6. ^ Esack, Steve (February 1, 2017). "Pennsylvania Senate Democrats seek special hearings on property tax reform". The Morning Call. Harrisburg, PA. Archived from the original on January 2, 2019. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Hale, George E. (2014). "The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: Explaining the Persistence of Scandal in the Pennsylvania General Assembly". In Dagnes, Alison; Sachleben, Mark (eds.). Scandal: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Consequences, Outcomes, and Significance of Political Scandals. Bloomsbury: New York. pp. 155–177. ISBN 978-1-62356-222-9. Retrieved November 30, 2023.
  8. ^ Chernow, Ron (2005). Alexander Hamilton. New York: Penguin Books. p. 476. ISBN 9781101200858. Retrieved November 30, 2023.
  9. ^ a b c Hale, George E. (2014). "The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: Explaining the Persistence of Scandal in the Pennsylvania General Assembly". In Dagnes, Alison; Sachleben, Mark (eds.). Scandal: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Consequences, Outcomes, and Significance of Political Scandals. Bloomsbury: New York. pp. 155–177. ISBN 978-1-62356-222-9. Retrieved November 30, 2023. (At p. 160.)
  10. ^ City of Philadelphia v. Commonwealth, 838 A. 2d 566 (Pa. 2003). This decision of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania expressly acknowledges that (1) the constitutional amendment occurred because of the General Assembly's problems with corruption, especially logrolling; and (2) the general view that enactment of a comprehensive codification was hindered by the perception that it would have violated the pre-1967 version of Section 3.
  11. ^ Consolidated Pennsylvania Statutes Act, Act 230, Public Law 707 (Nov. 25, 1970).
  12. ^ Prince, Mary Miles (2001). Prince's Bieber Dictionary of Legal Citations (6th ed.). Wm. S. Hein Publishing. p. 343. ISBN 1-57588-669-3. LCCN 2001024375.
  13. ^ "Pennsylvania Session Laws > FAQ". Pennsylvania Legislative Reference Bureau. Retrieved August 15, 2013.
  14. ^ "Senate Leadership". Pennsylvania Senate Republicans. Retrieved December 6, 2021.
  15. ^ "Leadership". Pennsylvania Senate Democrats. Retrieved December 6, 2021.
  16. ^ "Leadership". Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus. Retrieved February 8, 2023.
  17. ^ "Leaders for the 2023-24 Session". PA House Republican Caucus. Retrieved February 8, 2023.