If you’ve been sitting there thinking “I hope the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania never passes any new protections for worker safety, food safety, or air and water quality ever again” have PA Republicans got a bill for you!
Up for a vote in the House as soon as today, HB 965 creates an exciting new process whereby committees in the state legislature can effectively block the Executive branch from passing any new rules indefinitely.
The way it works now, state agencies propose regulations and the state’s bipartisan Independent Regulatory Review Committee conducts a review process, has a public comment period, and then takes an up-or-down vote on whether to approve or disapprove.
After IRRC votes, standing committees of the legislature have the power to do a further review, or disapprove of the rule. In those cases the proposed rule is stayed for 14 days, after which time it can be brought to a full vote of the legislature.
The way this would play out under HB 965 (and the companion bill SB 562 which was already passed unanimously by the state Senate this Spring because apparently zero Democrats read the bill) the IRRC would probably never even get a vote on the proposed rules because the committee review would kick in before the IRRC vote. Oh, and the lawmakers on those committees could redo the review process repeatedly as many times as they want, trapping any new regulations in purgatory.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that a legislative committee could postpone a vote by IRRC forever under this process, effectively blocking the Executive branch from passing any new rules. That’s great if you are a natural gas baron or an unscrupulous employer looking to fend off any new public interest regulations, but terrible if you are a mere resident of this Commonwealth.
Look at our Republican state legislature. Do you think any new worker protections or environmental protections would ever make it to the IRRC with the tea people controlling the committees? There’s no way. State agencies would be completely toothless and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission robbed of its independent oversight role.
The worst part is that this bill completely snuck up on us, with wind of this vote spreading only as recently as Thursday night. With all eyes on the budget, Republicans were betting this bill would pass without anyone noticing, and with the Senate vote in their pocket, that is terrifyingly close to becoming our reality.
Your state lawmakers need to hear from you right now and they need to know someone is watching. Please email this news to your networks and make sure activists in your area are aware that this is going down today!