Procedural requirements under Article III of the Pennsylvania Constitution for enactment of legislation, including change in original purpose, covering more than one subject, and need for consideration by both chambers on three separate days
Associations and providers servicing individuals with mental illness, intellectual disabilities, and substance abuse issues, along with individual objectors, brought action challenging the constitutionality of the Act of June 30, 2012, P.L. 668, No. 80 (Act 80), which enacted House Bill 1261, amending the Public Welfare Code. These amendments affected a number of human services programs administered by the Department of Public Welfare, including general assistance, medical assistance, child welfare, mental health services, intellectual disabilities services, physical disabilities services and nursing home services. Petitioners challenged Act 80 as unconstitutional on procedural and substantive grounds. Commonwealth Court sustained preliminary objections to counts I-III in 2013, but overruled preliminary objections as to counts IV-VI. After plaintiffs discontinued case as to counts IV-VI in 2016, thereby rendering the 2013 order as to counts I-III final, they appealed the 2013 dismissal of counts I-III.
Count I alleges violation of Article III, § 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution because the original purpose of House Bill 1261 changed during the course of its enactment. Count II alleges violation of Article III, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution because House Bill 1261 covered more than one subject). Count III alleges violation of Article III, § 4 of the Pennsylvania Constitution because House Bill 1261 was not considered on three different days in each chamber of the General Assembly. Appellants argue that “the day before it was signed into law, the dormant bill that became Act 80 was revived and amended to add multiple subjects which had no relationship to the bill’s original, very limited purpose – a purpose that had already been fully accomplished. This new, omnibus bill was not given the required three readings.” DPW responds that the Commonwealth Court correctly determined that “the General Assembly did not fail to comply with the Pennsylvania Constitution because it did not deviate from the original purpose of H.B. 1261, properly included all of its amendments to the Public Welfare Code under a single subject, and–as acknowledged by Appellants–considered the bill on three separate occasions in each chamber.”