The Pennsylvania’s General Assembly is the legislative branch of government of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has a bicameral legislature, consisting of the upper house, Senate and lower house, House of Representatives. The Pennsylvania General Assembly is the second-largest state legislature in the nation and the largest full-time legislature. The Pennsylvania’s General Assembly consists of the Pennsylvania Senate with 50 members and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives with 203 members. Senators are elected for a term of four years and Representatives for a term of two years. All members of the House (203 members) and half of the Senate (25 members) are elected every two years. The state is divided into 50 senatorial districts and 203 representative districts. One Senator and one Representative are elected from each of the respective districts. The districts are reapportioned every 10 years.
The General Assembly is a continuing body during the term for which its representatives are elected. It meets at noon on the first Tuesday of January and then regularly throughout the year. The Constitution allows the Governor to adjourn the General Assembly at “such times as he shall think proper, not exceeding four months,” when the House and Senate disagree with respect to adjournment. The Governor can convene the General Assembly “on extraordinary occasions” by proclamation. The Governor can also call special sessions on petition of a majority of the members of both the House and Senate.
Sessions of the Senate and the House can be held anywhere other than the Senate and House chambers. However, the Constitution places two restrictions on this action. Sessions must be held in the City of Harrisburg, and if either body contemplates a move, it must have the consent of the other.
The President of the Senate is the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania who has no vote except in case of a tie. The President Pro Tempore presides over the Senate in the absence of the President. If both the President and the President Pro Tempore are absent, then the Majority Leader, or someone designated by the Majority Leader, presides.
The presiding officer of the House of Representatives is the Speaker of the House. The Speaker may appoint a Speaker Pro Tempore. The Speaker preserves order and decorum, signs all bills and joint resolutions passed by both houses, refers all bills and resolutions to committees, appoints the chairmen and vice chairmen of the standing committees and appoints all special or select committees and vote on all questions.
A Senator or Representative cannot be appointed to any civil office under the Commonwealth, such as judge of the Court of Common Pleas, justice of the peace, member of the Turnpike Commission, or Public Utility Commission. Both Houses of the General Assembly can expel a member with a two-thirds vote. Anyone expelled for corruption can never run again for election to either house.
Senators must be at least 25 years old and Representatives at least 21 years old. They must be citizens and inhabitants of the state for four years, living in their respective districts for one year. They must reside within their district during their term of office.
A person is disqualified from being elected to the General Assembly if he has been convicted of:
- embezzlement of public monies;
- perjury; or
- other infamous crimes.
Moreover, any member expelled from the General Assembly is prohibited from future election to either house.