PA General Assembly file photo

In this Nov. 19, 2019, photo is the Pennsylvania House of Representatives chamber at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – A measure that would shift the duty of writing and advertising constitutional amendments away from the Department of State passed in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday.

The legislation arrives after a series of publicized missteps within the department forced the resignation of former Secretary Kathy Boockvar and prevented residents from voting on a constitutional amendment that gave child sex abuse survivors litigious recourse during the May 18 primary election.

House Bill 1010, sponsored by Rep. Jason Ortitay, R-Bridgeville, would transfer the responsibility to the Legislative Reference Bureau. It passed the lower chamber on a vote of 113-88 and will move to the Senate for consideration.

“The Legislative Reference Bureau, which is unbiased and fair, drafts all legislation,” Ortitay said Monday. “As a result, it only makes sense that it should be responsible for advertising and writing the actual ballot questions.”

Legislative Republicans also criticized the “hostile” and “confusing” wording of two ballot questions that appeared before voters last week regarding proposed constitutional amendments that limit the governor’s emergency powers. Senate GOP leaders said the language the department chose destined the amendments to “failure.” About 54% of voters approved the questions, according the state’s uncertified results.

In February, the department admitted it forgot to advertise a proposed constitutional amendment that would have opened a two-year civil litigation window for childhood sexual abuse survivors when it passed the General Assembly for the first time back in 2019.

The error led to Boockvar’s resignation and derailed the two-year effort to put the issue to voters in the May 18 primary election. Lawmakers, instead, started the process over in March, delaying the voter referendum until at least 2023, and are negotiating another measure that would authorize the two-year window through statute and deliver a more immediate path for survivors to seek justice, they said. 

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