About 80 members of the Pennsylvania House showed up for work Monday but couldn't take votes on many bills that were awaiting final action. Voting days for the remainder of the 2009-10 House session had been scheduled for November 8, 9, 10, 15 and 16. But House Speaker Keith McCall and House Majority Leader Todd Eachus decided to cancel the votes.
After showing up on the House floor today, about 30 legislators, mostly Democrats with about 3 Republicans, held a news briefing to criticize House leadership and urge them to restore the voting days. State Representative Robert Matzie (D-Allegheny/Beaver Counties) said he understands that some members would prefer no votes take place in sine die, the days after the election and before November 30
"Several House bills have been amended after bipartisan work was completed with the Senate and require a concurrence only. Those bills include one that affects state pensions; the creation of an Independent Fiscal Office; food safety; the establishment of a Pennsylvania Agriculture Surplus System, which is crucial for our food banks... all of the work put into bipartisan agreements on these measures deserves a vote of the full House."
Representative Barbara McIlvaine-Smith (D-Chester) was elected in 2006 with a wave of newcomers but chose not to run for reelection because of how the legislature operates. She says when Speaker McCall and Democratic leader Eachus failed to appear on the House floor, her "frustration was huge."
State Representative Bill Kortz (D-Dravosburg) said there are many critical bills that have been completely vetted and awaiting action including one that is personally important to him. That measure addresses a State Supreme Court decision from 2 months ago that said school code language from 2007, that allowed for the transfer of high school students from the Duquesne School District to East Allegheny and West Mifflin, was unconstitutional...
"That bill, (that awaits final House approval) Senate Bill 441, Senator Jay Costa was successful in amending that includes language that will pass muster. Now we're going to walk away from that. We got 195 minority students wondering where they are going to go to school next year. That is unacceptable."