The Lead

Pa. Senate panel advances updates to disability law procedures

By: - May 9, 2023 12:34 pm
The ceiling of the main Rotunda inside Pennsylvania’s Capitol building. May 24, 2022. Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg, for the Capital-Star).

The ceiling of the main Rotunda inside Pennsylvania’s Capitol building. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).

A state Senate panel voted Tuesday to approve updates to the law outlining the legal procedure for incapacitated governors and lieutenant governors unable to carry out their official duties.

The Republican-controlled Senate State Government Committee unanimously voted in favor of legislation from Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, modernizing how elected officials communicate during emergencies and updating language to replace “disability” references with “incapacitation.”

The proposal requires that both the governor and lieutenant governor communicate with each other and the General Assembly when and if one becomes incapacitated and cannot serve in public office. It also updates communication methods to include email or fax.

Argall first introduced the proposal after now-U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, a Democrat, suffered a stroke and underwent a surgical procedure to implant a pacemaker while serving as Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor in May 2022. Then-Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, who no longer serves in public office, stepped into Fetterman’s role from May 17 until May 23, following notice from former Gov. Tom Wolf.

The legislative committee later held a hearing in July where experts testified about outdated aspects of the law, such as references to the telegram, and outlined previous times when the law was necessary, including in 1993 when former Gov. Bob Casey underwent a heart-liver transplant. At the time, former Lt. Gov. Mark Singel served in the interim for six months.

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