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Proposed Pa. House rule change on incapacitated lawmakers moves out of committee over GOP protest


Peter Hall, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
May 8, 2024

A rule change that would create a new process for removing Pennsylvania House lawmakers who become incapacitated passed a committee vote along party lines on Wednesday, drawing vocal objections from Republican leaders.

House Majority Leader Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery) called the vote in the House Rules Committee. He introduced the resolution two weeks ago as a partisan squabble erupted over whether Democrats should continue casting votes on behalf of a lawmaker who was absent due to a mental health crisis.

Democratic leaders removed Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Philadelphia) from committee assignments and suspended his Capitol security privileges in February after an embarrassing video of Boyle circulated on social media. Republicans called for Boyle to be placed on leave after authorities announced on April 16 that he faced arrest for violating a restraining order, only to say a week later that an arrest warrant had been issued in error.

Boyle’s whereabouts remain publicly unknown and Bradford on Wednesday told reporters that he would not comment on conversations he has had with his friend, Boyle.

The new rule would allow the floor leader of either caucus to request an inquiry to determine whether a member of the leader’s own party was incapable of carrying out the duties of their office. If the lawmaker in question is determined to be incapacitated, further steps could include suspension or expulsion from the House.

Republican objections centered on the partisan makeup of the subcommittee that would be charged with evaluating a lawmaker’s capability. It would include three members of the majority party and two members of the minority party.

Republican members of the Rules Committee also expressed concern about the lack of transparency in the secret process, the possibility of a lawmaker’s personal and medical information being misused and the possibility of abuse of the process to coerce votes. 

House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) ruled last month that only a signed letter from Boyle could revoke the designation allowing the Democratic whip to cast votes on his behalf when he was absent from the chamber. Therefore, the floor leaders lacked any authority to end Boyle’s absentee voting, McClinton said in the ruling, which was affirmed by a committee review.

If Boyle was removed from the roll call, it would leave House Democrats with a 101-100 numerical majority but unable to pass legislation without bipartisan support. The state Constitution requires 102 votes to pass legislation. 

A Republican lawmaker who won a special election April 23 is set to be sworn in later this month to replace Rep. Joseph Adams (R-Wayne) who resigned due to illness in January. Rep. Joe Kerwin (R-Dauphin) remains on leave while he is on deployment to east Africa with the Pennsylvania National Guard. 

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.