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New PA Government Oversight Committee Raises Eyebrows

Matt Rourke
The capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa.

As one of its first actions of a new legislative session, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has passed some updated rules governing internal procedures.

Lawmakers agree to updating the rules every two years, and generally it’s not too controversial. Though this time, a newly-approved committee is raising some eyebrows.

The new Government Oversight Committee will have five Democrats and four Republicans, and is charged with investigating actions by the executive branch.

The way House GOP Leader Bryan Cutler explains it, it’s a way of following up on the governor’s administration.

“The committees will often focus on passing new laws, but it’s really an effort by us by which we can follow up to check the effectiveness of laws,” Cutler said.

The committee will be one of three the legislature has with subpoena power — meaning members can legally compel people to respond.

The other two — the Appropriations and Ethics committees — focus on fiscal issues and individual legislators’ actions. Cutler said he doesn’t believe those jurisdictions overlap.

A number of Democrats have said they weren’t totally on board. Most — 58 out of 91 — ended up voting against the entire rules package for one reason or another.

A spokesman for Democratic Governor Tom Wolf said since it’s not yet clear how exactly the committee will be used, the administration hopes the formation of the new committee doesn’t “reflect a desire to abandon bipartisanship in the House.”