I was recently asked why there has not yet been a vote on liquor privatization in the Senate. It was that question that prompted the subject of this month’s “Harrisburg Happenings;” the so-called “life of a bill.” I like to think of this process as a deliberate one rather than a slow one.
I will continue to use the liquor privatization bill as an example. Right now, there are two pieces of legislation surrounding the issue of liquor in the Senate. We have HB 790 (liquor privatization), which was approved by the House of Representatives March 21. We also have SB 800, which will soon be introduced by Senator Jim Ferlo to address the issue of liquor modernization.
Bills, as you may know, must pass both chambers (the House and Senate) in identical form, and then are approved by the Governor.
I believe that the process, while a complex one, is good in that it provides a safeguard that bills are not rushed through, and it gives the citizens an opportunity to stay informed and share their opinions with elected officials.
HB 790 passed the House after several considerations. The bill first had to get approval from standing committees; in this case, it was the Liquor Control Committee and the Appropriations Committee. When a bill is in committee, members of that committee may offer amendments, or changes, to the bill. During 2nd consideration on the House floor, Representatives may offer amendments. It was then considered on three separate days in the House, with the final approval, as mentioned above, on March 21.
Next, the bill comes over to the Senate as HB 790, exactly as it was approved in the House. The vote on the bill does not happen immediately. First, it is referred to committees for consideration. In the Senate, it has been referred to the Law and Justice Committee and will also be referred to the Appropriations Committee. Once the committees have approved the legislation, it must come up for a vote on three different days in the Senate. On the 2nd and 3rd days, Senators may offer their own amendments.
Keep in mind, the Senate may take the information and opinions offered during the House proceedings into consideration, but the Senate is also entitled to hold its own hearings on the bill, take testimony, and consult experts. Senators will often take time to discuss bills with constituents as well to get their take on it.
So, I believe that the process, while a complex one, is good in that it provides a safeguard that bills are not rushed through, and it gives the citizens an opportunity to stay informed and share their opinions with elected officials.
If you ever wish to follow a certain piece of legislation, you can see exactly what actions have been taken on the Pennsylvania Legislative website, www.legis.state.pa.us.
And, as always, if you have any questions, concerns, or comments about any state-related matters, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 453.2515 or by email at SenatorWiley@pasenate.com. I am also easily accessible on the web at SenatorWiley.com, also via Twitter (@SenatorWiley) and Facebook (SenatorSeanWiley).