Pennsylvania State Senators Host Virtual Discussion on Senate Operating Rules

Senator Lindsey WilliamsImage via Pennsylvania Senate Democrats

PENNSYLVANIA — State Senator Katie Muth (D- Berks/Chester/Montgomery), Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, and state Senator Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny) hosted a virtual roundtable discussion Wednesday night on the operating rules of the Pennsylvania State Senate and their package of reforms that would enhance transparency and ensure fairness in the legislative process.

The Senate Rules are the parliamentary procedures by which the Senate adheres to and the process by which the Senate creates public policy, considers issues and resolves disputes. The Senate Rules are adopted at the beginning of each two-year legislative session by a simple majority vote and will be voted on when the Senate reconvenes for the new legislative session on January 3, 2023.

“The Senate Rules, developed each session by the Majority Party, limit our participation in the legislative process and silence the voices of millions of Pennsylvania taxpayers by allowing the Majority Party to have unilateral control over the calendar and all Senate proceedings,” Muth said. “For the second session in a row, Senator Lindsey Williams and I are introducing a set of operating rules that are equitable and fair to all members of the Senate – not just those in the Majority. Our virtual roundtable discussion was an opportunity to highlight how the Senate Operating Rules negatively impact our ability to govern. I hope the Majority Party will work with us to draft rules that allow all members of the Senate to fully participate in the legislative process.”

Senator Muth and Senator Williams sent a letter to President Pro Tempore Kim Ward and Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman Wednesday afternoon outlining their proposed rules reforms and requesting a meeting to work with Majority Leadership on the operating rules of the Senate for the upcoming 2023-24 legislative session.

“The Operating Rules of the Senate control every action that we will take over the next 2 years—which bills will get a vote and which won’t, how much notice the public will get of Senate action, and more,” Williams added. “I’m encouraging everyone to contact their Senator to ask them to support these commonsense reforms. Together, we can build a Harrisburg that is more transparent, open, and accountable for all Pennsylvanians.”

The rules reforms requested by Senator Muth and Senator Williams include:

Operating Rules:

  • Require that all bills and resolutions receive a vote in committee.
  • Require a ⅔ vote for certain motions, including tabling.
  • Ensure adequate public notice of Senate action by requiring the marked calendar to be released at least 24 hours before the start of session.
  • Authorize Minority Chairs to call committee hearings.
  • Empower Minority Chairs to add legislation to the committee voting agenda.
  • Expand legislative requirements and action for bills on concurrence, including allowing amendments to be offered on the floor to bills on concurrence.
  • Require action on bipartisan legislation and legislation that has received bipartisan support in the House.
  • Ensure every amendment gets a vote and requires that all amendment votes, both in committee and on the floor, are recorded on the public-facing website of the legislature and in the Senate journal.
  • Require Majority and Minority Party participation to conduct official business, including committee meeting quorum requirements
  • Expand the camera view to the full Senate floor during session so the public can see who is on the floor and observe senators casting their votes.
  • Mandate all committee hearings to be livestreamed, recorded, and archived to ensure meetings held in the Rules Committee Room are viewable by the public.
  • Guarantee equitable representation on standing committees.
  • Require makers of bills to stand for interrogation upon request.
  • Require a publicly-available fiscal note for every bill prior to it receiving a floor vote.
  • Expand the type of floor actions that are debatable, including the motion to table
  • Require Committee Chairs to administer oaths for all testifiers at hearings.

Ethics Rules:

  • Implement a sexual harassment and misconduct policy to protect all individuals working within the State Capitol, including outside contractors, lobbyists, and visitors.

Finance Rules:

  • Require all members’ legislative expenses and all per diem payments to be publicly posted and in searchable format on the public-facing website of the legislature.

Many of the reforms sought by Senator Muth and Senator Williams were first introduced at the beginning of the 2021-22 legislative session as Senate Resolution 4. The resolution was referred to the Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee by a party-line vote and were never considered by the Senate.

A recording of last night’s roundtable discussion and a downloadable PDF of the presentation is available at

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