Bill advances that would require Department of State to track constitutional amendment process on publicly accessible website

HARRISBURG – The Senate State Government Committee advanced a measure that would require the Department of State to publicly post to its website a tracking system of any proposed constitutional amendment after the Wolf Administration’s Department of State failed to carry out a proposed constitutional amendment, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York).

House Bill 963 was approved by the General Assembly during the 2019-2020 session, which proposed to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution by creating a two-year window for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file litigation against their abusers. In February, the Wolf Administration announced it failed to properly advertise the proposed constitutional amendment, leading to the abrupt resignation of the Secretary of State.

The Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General compiled a 68-page report detailing the internal failures of the department to carry out its constitutional and legal duty.

Phillips-Hill’s Senate Bill 738, also known as the Constitutional Amendment Accountability Act, would require the Department of State to create a publicly accessible website that will provide a detailed account of each action taken to publish a proposed constitutional amendment. The bill would require the department to share a copy of the notice advertising the proposed constitutional amendment and a listing of newspapers where the notice was advertised, as well as deadlines mandated by the Constitution. The public would also be able to view the earliest election date when the proposed constitutional amendment could be voted on by electors.

“By allowing every Pennsylvanian to watch the constitutional amendment process from start to finish through a publicly accessible website will provide the much-needed transparency and oversight that is essential when these proposed constitutional amendments are working their way through the process,” she said. “More importantly, this bill will not let allow this governor or any future governor to fail victims or any Pennsylvanian with a vested interest in a proposed constitutional amendment.”

The legislation now advances to the full Senate for its consideration.