Proposed Legislation in Pennsylvania – June 2010

June 2010Newsletters In the Zone

House Bill No. 2431 proposes to amend Section 1 of Article IX of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to reorganize local government with a county basis. The proposed legislation would establish the county "as the basic unit of local government."

Currently, there are 2,562 municipalities in Pennsylvania. There are 67 counties. Representative Thomas Caltagirone of Berks County introduced the proposed legislation, which would provide the county as the basic unit of local government with jurisdiction over: (1) personnel, (2) law enforcement, (3) land use, (4) sanitation and (5) health and safety.

In essence, the proposal would eliminate townships, cities and boroughs as they currently exist, and, in turn, counties would oversee operations on a much broader scale. In conjunction with his introduction of the legislation, Caltagirone wrote in a memorandum to all members of the House of Representatives that the intent of the legislation is "to provide the tools to establish municipalities under the jurisdiction of the county and determine the relationship among these municipalities and the county. I believe that in this effort to amend the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Constitution, we may be able to model our municipal governments to a more efficient and effective structure."

Caltagirone added that the foregoing system is used by southern states and such a consolidation under a county government structure would "create less bureaucracy and cut down on duplication of services."

In order to become law, the proposed amendments would need to be passed in two consecutive sessions of the legislature and then face a statewide referendum. There does not appear to be much support for the proposed amendments, at least from townships.

For example, the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, which represents the commonwealth's 1,455 townships of the second class and more than 10,000 local officials, issued a news release, dated April 28, 2010, stating that it "strongly opposes House Bill 2431, which ...would radically change the way Pennsylvanians are governed."

House Bill 2431 was referred to the Committee on Local Government on April 20, 2010. It will be interesting to see whether this proposed legislation gains any traction.

For more information, please contact David H. Comer at 610.397.7963 or [email protected].