New proposals could change state constitutional laws
By Rep. Anita Kulik
I know many of us had hoped to start 2021 on a good note, but between the surge in COVID-19 cases and political unrest, that hope has to wait. The unrolling of the vaccine has given us hope that this year will see us gradually getting back to our normal lives. We just have to stand together a while longer. We continue to receive information and changes as to how the vaccine will be distributed. Current information can be found on the Department of Health's website.
In the shadow of the turmoil that is happening in Washington D.C., the Pennsylvania House of Representatives returned to session on Jan. 11. It was a relatively uneventful session week as committees were formed and organized. I am happy to have retained my committee assignments from the past session and look forward to the first meetings for these committees when we return to session on Jan. 25.
I will again be a member of the following committees: liquor control, game and fisheries, professional licensure, and veterans affairs and emergency preparedness. I am particularly pleased to be a part of the last committee, where I can advance the causes of veterans, and of our local fire companies. Our local volunteer fire departments need our assistance, and I believe that the Commonwealth needs to do more to support their efforts.
Numerous bills have been introduced and referred to the appropriate committees for consideration. Many, which I have co-sponsored, address the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on small businesses and those who remain unemployed.
Issues looking to be addressed include, among other things, grants for wineries, distilleries and breweries; pandemic disease remediation cost reimbursements; and relaxing deductibility limits for prior year business losses. I will be reintroducing my bill from last session that addressed issues for liquor licensees as well as working with my colleagues on budgetary issues that will undoubtedly be of importance this year.
Many issues on other relevant topics must be addressed even in this unsettling time. Bills addressing carbon monoxide detectors in schools, helping students with epilepsy feel safer in schools, and establishing a "green alert" system to identify and help at-risk veterans are some of the issues seeking attention. I again will be pushing for the adoption of Alina's Law, to help protect the victims of domestic violence.
Of particular note are bills that have come out of the state government committee. These bills may be coming to the House floor for vote as early as our next session week beginning Jan. 25.
Both are looking to make constitutional changes which means they would go to the voting public for consideration.
One proposal would change the way that emergency declarations are handled in Pennsylvania. Currently, the Governor can declare a state of emergency for a period of 90 days and renew that declaration without consulting the legislature. Under the proposal, the emergency declaration would last only 21 days, and the Governor would have to get approval from the legislature to renew that declaration.
Another proposed amendment to the Constitution would change the way we elect appellate court judges. Currently, appellate court judges are elected by all the electorate of the Commonwealth.
While common pleas court judges are elected only by voters in their respective counties, appellate court judges run statewide. Under the new proposal, appellate court judges would run from specific districts and not statewide. While I have many concerns about this proposal, I look forward to discussing these with my colleagues in the coming weeks.
Much debate will be held on both these proposals as members argue the pros and cons of each. All in all, this should be a lively and interesting year in the House as we address these and other necessary issues, including upcoming budget concerns.