There’s a whole bunch of standing committees in the Pennsylvania House — 27, in fact. There’s 22 in the Senate.
You may have heard of Senate or House committees in Pennsylvania’s state government, but you may not have known exactly what they do or what their importance is. For instance, newly elected freshman Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, who’s representing the 184th Legislative District, has been assigned to the Appropriations, Health and Environmental Resources and Energy committees in the House of Representatives. Fiedler said she’s “thrilled to get started on these powerful committees and to work with my colleagues on health, environmental and economic issues that impact the residents in my district and across Pennsylvania.”
But there’s a whole bunch of standing committees in the Pennsylvania House — 27, in fact. There’s 22 in the Senate.
SPR asked Fiedler what exactly serving on a standing committee entails to help give readers a better understanding of how their state government works. She said that when a member sponsors and introduces a piece of legislation, the House speaker — who right now is Republican Mike Turzai from the state’s 28th Legislative District in Allegheny County — assigns that piece of legislation to the appropriate committee.
“Appropriations is a pretty basic picture and also a nuanced look at our public money,” she said. “It’s a thing that I’m real excited to be on that committee. I think it will provide a lot of information and insight into all the dollars that are spent in Pennsylvania and it will provide me the opportunity to ask a lot of questions on behalf of my constituents and on behalf of people who [wonder], like me at times, where does all of our money go. In this case, it’s a $2.7 billion budget.”
Fiedler said her assignment “is not a traditional assignment for a freshman” representative. “It’s a real honor to be on it,” she said. “I’m really excited to work very hard on behalf of the people of South Philly.”
The Environmental Resources & Energy deals with issues of “clean air and clean water and making sure that we’re moving toward an economy that includes a lot of renewable energy sources,” Fiedler said.
The Health Committee is more self-explanatory. It deals with healthcare, insurance and issues related to a woman’s right to choose.
All members have a chance to rank committees in order of their preference, so they have some say in which committee they’re assigned to. According to Fiedler, the three she was assigned to were high up on her list. She expressed disappointment, however, that she wasn’t assigned to both the Labor & Industry Committee and the Education Committee.
“I think we really need to invest serious money into our public schools and also into fixing up the school buildings, so I’m excited to continue to serve as an education advocate from outside,” she said. “And then labor and industry — jobs, jobs, jobs, right? I think too many people in South Philly and across Pennsylvania have to get two or three jobs just to be able to pay their bills, just to be able to pay for daycare and food, and I think that’s ridiculous. People should go to work hard at one job and then go home, be with their family [or] go to their civic association meeting.”
Because Republicans control the Pennsylvania House, they have 15 members on each committee compared to the Democrats’ 10. South Philly’s other House representatives, Maria Donatucci and Jordan Harris, also serve on House standing committees. Donatucci, who represents the 185th Legislative District, serves on the Appropriations, Labor & Industry, Liquor Control, Rules and Transportation committees. Harris, who represents the 186th Legislative District, serves on the Rules committee. The Rules Committee may not be as self-explanatory as the rest of them.
According to Jack Eilber, media specialist for the Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus, “The Rules Committee shall make recommendations to improve and expedite the business and procedure of the House and its committees, and to propose to the House any amendments to the rules deemed necessary.”