ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
HB 1201 would amend the Pennsylvania Election Code to require that when amendments are proposed to the Pennsylvania Constitution, the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) will be responsible for preparing the question to be included on the ballot and preparing the plain English statement describing the amendment’s purpose, limitations and effects on the people of the Commonwealth.
HB 1201 would upend the balance of power under Article XI, fundamentally changing what the Pennsylvania Constitution has required for nearly 200 years.
The legislature has the sole responsibility for drafting constitutional amendments. Proposed amendments must pass each chamber in two consecutive legislative sessions before being presented to voters in a ballot referendum. Proposed amendments are not subject to gubernatorial veto and therefore are not constrained by traditional checks and balances between the branches of government. By allowing a legislative agency to draft the amendment language and determine what information the electorate sees about the amendment, HB 1201 would give the legislature wide latitude to control public messaging on any amendment, in whatever way it may deem necessary, to persuade the electorate to support its proposals.