Skip Navigation

Pa. House continuing with Monday voting session despite coronavirus concerns

  • Ed Mahon/Spotlight PA
FILE PHOTO: The dome of the Pennsylvania Capitol is visible in Harrisburg.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

FILE PHOTO: The dome of the Pennsylvania Capitol is visible in Harrisburg.

With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is to equip you with the information you need. Rather than chase every update, we’ll try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See all of our stories here.

What you should know
» Coronavirus facts & FAQ
» Map: Confirmed cases in the U.S. and around the world
» How to prepare your home for coronavirus

Despite concerns from some lawmakers about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the Pennsylvania House plans to return to the state Capitol for a legislative session on Monday.

Democratic state Reps. Summer Lee (Allegheny) and Mike Schlossberg (Lehigh) both voiced objections on Twitter on Sunday. Lee pointed out that one of the items on Monday’s calendar is a resolution honoring former Republican President Ronald Reagan.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat, also weighed in.

On Saturday, Senate leaders canceled the chamber’s Monday session, but its members will be on 12-hour call. The Senate is scheduled to return to session Tuesday and Wednesday.

But Mike Straub, a spokesman for the House Republican Caucus, said the House plans to return to session Monday.

“Still on — first up on the agenda some temporary rule changes to potentially allow for some level of proxy voting,” Straub said in an email late Sunday afternoon. “The Senate being out Monday limits some of what we can do —  so mostly rule changes on Monday, and planning more virus related heavy lifting Tuesday.”

Straub said lawmakers plan to keep action this week focused on coronavirus-related bills, not resolutions.

Bill Patton, a spokesman for the House Democratic Caucus, said that while many Democratic lawmakers are questioning the need for a full voting session on Monday, most still plan to attend.

Both chambers are expected to take votes this week related to helping communities impacted by the spread of the coronavirus, although legislative leaders haven’t announced details.

Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has closed the state Capitol to visitors.

What are the remote voting options?

The state House has 203 seats (with a few vacancies) and the state Senate has 50 seats. Straub said the House has previously passed temporary rules to allow ill members to vote from home.

“Those kinds of rule changes are being discussed at this time, but nothing has been decided, and again, would require a vote on the House floor before we could institute a proxy vote system,” Straub said in an email Saturday. “Considering right now we have no standard option for remote or proxy voting — we are a very long way from a situation where the entire House could vote remotely.”

Straub said a quorum of members have to be present to vote on rule changes. After Philadelphia Democrat Roni Green is sworn in Monday, 101 members will need to be present to hit the quorum threshold.

In the state Senate, Republican caucus spokesman Jenn Kocher said the Senate’s leave system allows members to vote remotely if they are in their district, or driving to or from their district.

“Even with that we have to have 26 members there. For the entirety of the Senate to vote remotely, we would have to look at rule changes,” Kocher said in an email. “I do not have a legal opinion on this but the Constitution also says we must conduct session in public. Not sure how have everyone vote remotely would fit that.”

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Up Next
Politics & Policy

Wolf: Bucks, Chester counties under new coronavirus restrictions; state liquor stores to close in four counties