PA Senate Approves Constitutional Amendment Tracking System

Member Group : Center Square

Center Square) – The Pennsylvania Senate approved a measure Monday that would establish a public website to track the process of proposed constitutional amendments.

The proposal comes after the Department of State in February admitted it failed to advertise a ballot question that would have given survivors of child sex abuse a two-year window to sue the perpetrators.

The scandal triggered the resignation of former Secretary Kathy Boockvar. Three months later, state investigators released a 68-page report claiming no malfeasance behind the error, but insisting rather it was the consequence of untrained staffers and an overextended legislative affairs director.

Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-Jacobus, sponsored Senate Bill 738 in June, just two weeks after the department publicized the report. It would establish a public tracking website that would include a copy of the proposed amendment along with its required advertising deadline, a listing of every newspaper in which it was published and the earliest possible Election Day in which the amendment would appear as a ballot question.

“For something as consequential as a constitutional amendment, this bill will ensure this administration or any future administration will not fail victims or any other Pennsylvanian with a vested interest in a proposed constitutional amendment,” Sen. Phillips-Hill said. “Every Pennsylvanian should hold this Department of State accountable moving forward through this transparent process.”

In June, the House passed a bill that strips the department of its role in writing and advertising constitutional amendments, transferring the responsibility to the Legislative Reference Bureau instead.

Neither bill, however, can speed up the timeline for the botched amendment that had been scheduled to appear on the ballot in the May 18 primary election.

Lawmakers, instead, started the two-year process over in March, delaying the voter referendum until at least 2023, and are negotiating another measure that would authorize the two-year window through statute and deliver a more immediate path for survivors to seek justice.

Staff Reporter

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania’s General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.