Lawmakers spearhead effort calling for convention to change State Constitution

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Citing frequent gridlock and frustration over not getting much done, some state lawmakers are leading an effort to launch a constitutional convention to make reforms that would reset the landscape of how state government works.

Led by Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair) and Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland), concurrent bills in the Senate and House, if approved, would put the matter of calling a constitutional convention to the voters of Pennsylvania.

"There's been some flaws in it that are obvious and things that have to be fixed, [such as] the size of the legislature, the pay of legislators, the way the governor can manage a budget into a deficit situation like we have right now," Bloom said. "There's things we can do, that the citizens can help us do, to fix this once and for all."

Mounting frustration over another prolonged budget impasse has only added fuel to the fire.

"There's a lot of issues about that the Constitution is a little vague," Eichelberger said. "Some of us feel that there's things being done that the Governor should not have the authority to do based on our reading of the Constitution, [and] other people think that he can do that."

The bills have bi-partisan sponsorship, but Gov. Tom Wolf's administration has hit back against the proposal.

"There are endless reforms that could be enacted without a constitutional convention," J.J. Abbott, the governor's press secretary, said in a statement. "The governor proposed a package last session that the legislature took no action on. The need for reform is real but we don't need to wait years to make it happen."

If the voters approve of a constitutional convention, they would elect three people in each senatorial district in non-partisan races to take part as delegates in the convention. The Lieutenant Governor and leaders from both parties in both houses of the General Assembly would also participate, bringing the total delegate count to 163.

Only administrative functions outlined under the State Constitution under Articles II through V, which govern the three branches of government, would be up for review. Article I, which outlines personal rights, would not be open to reform.

"It's going to take the voters to fix this, the citizens of Pennsylvania," Bloom said. "There's bipartisan interest, It's not a Republican thing or a Democratic thing, it's a thing that the people can do to fix this broken Pennsylvania government."

Pennsylvania last held a constitutional convention in 1967, which established the current structure of the state legislature, as well as limits on borrowing, home rule for local governments and a unified judicial system.