Lame-Duck Session Scheduled in Pennsylvania

Democratic House Speaker Keith McCall of Pennsylvania will call his chamber into special session on Monday (November 15) to vote on an unfinished pension reform bill, according to The Patriot-News of Harrisburg . The decision will give outgoing Democrats the chance to pass at least one more bill before newly elected Republicans take over both the legislature and the governor's office in January.

Such "lame-duck" legislative sessions are common in Washington, D.C., where Congress is set to meet next week - with Democrats still in control of the House of Representatives - to consider an agenda that includes the extension of Bush-era tax cuts. But lame-duck sessions are rarer in the states, which usually finish their work by the summertime and are called into post-election meetings only for pressing matters that cannot wait until regular legislative terms begin.

Pennsylvania, however, has long been different. As Stateline has reported , it is one of a very small number of states that regularly hold lame-duck sessions, giving outgoing lawmakers - those who are term-limited, retiring or were ousted by voters - the chance to weigh in on potentially important or controversial proposals just weeks before they leave. In Pennsylvania, at least, the sessions have drawn sharp criticism from good-government groups that disapprove of the fact that outgoing lawmakers are essentially unaccountable during such meetings.

New Jersey also commonly has held lame-duck sessions, though it is not an issue this year, since New Jersey's legislature was not up for election. In New York, Governor David Paterson - who will be replaced by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, in January - wants to call lawmakers into special session to address the state's budget crisis, but lingering uncertainty over which party will control the Senate appears to be complicating things, as the (Albany) Times-Union notes. (Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York are among eight states with year-round legislatures, making lame-duck sessions more common.)

In Pennsylvania, the legislation that the state House is set to consider on Monday "would smooth out the spike in the state's pension costs that are set to begin in 2012," according to The Patriot-News . The bill has already been passed by the Republican-controlled state Senate, so it is not among the most controversial issues that have divided the parties.



Related Stories