Rules can promote collaboration, accountability and bipartisanship

We are not lawyers, parliamentarians or procedural experts, but we HAVE spent the last few years deep in research on rules in use in other states and have also logged hundreds of hours of conversation with Pennsylvania legislators in both parties and both chambers.

The above is from an email sent on January 13, 2023 to legislative leaders, members of the Speaker’s workgroup to address House rules, members of the PA One Caucus and other representatives who have supported efforts to reform the rules. The email, from FDPA Chair Carol Kuniholm on behalf of the FDPA team, offered the following suggestions. These recommendations are based on ideas from leaders, rank and file legislators, and best practices in use in other places. The goal: to move the conversation forward and to offer support for legislative rules that provide accountable representation and ensure final votes for bipartisan solutions.

Priority Bills

Action on Priority Bills:

Upon receipt of a bill designated as a priority bill, the Chief Clerk shall notify the Speaker, the Majority Leader, the Minority Leader and the chair and minority chair of the committee to which the bill is referred of the bill’s designation as a priority bill. A priority bill shall, if in committee, receive a committee vote on the motion to report the bill to the floor of the House, without a recommendation to refer the bill to another committee, within six legislative days of the Chief Clerk being notified that the bill has been designated as a priority bill. The chair of the committee may delay the vote on the motion to report the bill to the floor of the House for up to three additional legislative days for the purpose of conducting a public hearing on the bill.

A priority bill that is voted affirmatively from committee shall receive first consideration upon receipt from committee, and members shall be notified that the priority bill shall be considered on second consideration on the earliest permitted legislative day pursuant to Rule 21. Upon second consideration, members shall be notified that the priority bill will be considered on third consideration and final passage at the earliest date permitted pursuant to the rules.

All priority bills must be introduced and designated as priority by June 1, 2024.

Designation of priority bills:

Representative priority: Every representative shall be entitled to identify one bill per session as a potential priority bill. When that bill has been co-sponsored by at least five representatives from each party, it will be designated as a priority bill.

Bipartisan cosponsorship: Upon a bill receiving the co-sponsorship of 20 members of the majority party and 20 members of the minority party, the prime sponsor of the bill may request in writing to the Chief Clerk that the bill be designated as a priority bill.

Bipartisan Senate bills: any bill passed in the Senate with a bipartisan super-majority (either a majority from each caucus, OR a ⅔ overall majority) will be designated a priority bill.

Commission/ advisory board recommended legislation: Any provision recommended by a legislatively approved (constituted?) bipartisan commission or advisory board and subsequently introduced as BIPARTISAN legislation shall be considered a priority bill.

Amendment to Rule 53: (Discharge Petition)

When at least 10 members of each House caucus shall have signed the discharge resolution, it shall be entered in the Journal and the title of the bill or resolution and the name of the committee to be discharged shall be printed on the calendar

Once the discharge resolution has been placed on the calendar, the committee may take no action on the bill or resolution except to report the bill or resolution to the House under its current printer’s number and without a recommendation to re-refer to another committee, until such time as the discharge resolution is acted upon by the House. First, second and third consideration of the bill will be required within six session days.


Amend Rule 43: All standing committees shall consist a number of members as determined by the Committee on Committees of the majority party and the minority party apportioned as nearly as possible to reflect the percentage of the membership of the majority and minority parties in the House. The quorum for each of the standing committees and subcommittees shall be no less than the majority of said committees.

Selection of Committee Chairs: By ⅔ vote of Speaker, Republican Leader and Democratic Leader, OR Committee members elect committee chairs Seniority should not be a sole factor in selection of committee chairs.

Constitutional Amendments:

Public Input: All proposed constitutional amendments shall require a one-week period of public comment before the committee vote. Comments shall be submitted on a public website and shall be retained as part of the public record. The committee shall also be required to hold a public hearing which shall include testimony from experts chosen in equal numbers by the majority and minority committee chairs as well as an advertised opportunity for public testimony.

Public Record: To assist voters in informed decisions on proposed amendments, the General Assembly will provide a web page for each amendment, with links to recordings and transcripts of committee hearings, public testimony and comment and all relevant committee and chamber votes.

Severability: Whereas Constitutional Amendments must be presented to the public as single subject questions, and whereas both PA Senate and House committees at times combine, divide and recombine amendments, any member of the PA House can present a motion - in committee or on the House floor - requesting that combined amendments be separated into single subject amendments for the purpose of the House vote. Such a motion will be guaranteed an up or down vote.

Respect for voters amendment format: To respect voter attempts to understand the legislative process and hold legislators accountable, constitutional amendments must be voted on EITHER as individual bills OR in the exact configuration as passed the House in the first session. Bills recombined in the Senate following initial passage will be separated into individual bills in committee and given a separate vote.

So long as the language of the original, individual amendment does not change, that amendment shall be considered to have passed in two subsequent sessions if the House and or Senate votes in the affirmative on the individual amendment either individually or in combined form.

Proposed Speaker’s Commission

Speaker’ Committee on the Rules (not as a resolution, but as part of the rules package). On adoption of these rules, the Republican Leader, with approval of the Speaker, will appoint 10 members of the House Republican caucus and the Democratic Leader, with approval of the Speaker, will appoint 10 members of the House Democratic caucus, to the Speaker’s Committee on the Rules. The members of the special committee shall be appointed within one week of adoption of the rules, and shall by majority vote select one Republican and one Democratic co-chair from among appointed committee members. The special committee at its first meeting shall adopt procedures governing the committee’s agenda, scheduling and voting and the participation of public and legislative interest groups.

The committee shall propose rules to be introduced as legislation to be considered as priority bill and/or as revisions to the Rules of the House of Representative (2023-24).. Each proposed revision shall require a vote of at least 75% of the members of the special committee. The special committee shall submit a final report of its study and recommendations for revisions or legislation to the House of Representatives within 60 days of the date of the adoption of this resolution. Proposed revisions and legislation will be given first consideration on the first day submitted to the House.

Legislative Rules should be available for public review for at least 48 hours before a vote.