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What is a constitution?
Why should not the judicial power be intrusted to the General Assembly or to the Governor?
Why not vest the executive power as well as the legislative power in the General Assembly?
Which is better, a written or an unwritten constitution?
What effect does the separation of the powers of government into three distinct departments have upon the security of the rights of the people?
Name and Composition.—The legislative power of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is vested in a General Assembly, which consists of a senate and a house of representatives (28). The senate consists of fifty members, and the house of representatives of two hundred and seven. The laws of Pennsylvania are known as “Acts of Assembly," and not as statutes, as in some of the States.
Districts. The constitution prescribes that the State shall be divided into senatorial and representative districts, and defines the method of division. This apportionment of members shall be made immediately after each decennial census of the United States (45). The State is divided into fifty senatorial districts of compact and contiguous territory, and each district elects one senator. The ratio of senatorial representation is found by dividing the population of the State by fifty (43). Philadelphia has eight districts, Allegheny county has six, and Luzerne county has two. The members of the house of representatives are apportioned according to a ratio found by dividing the population of the State by two hundred. The county of Philadelphia has forty-one members in the lower branch of the General Assembly. Allegheny county has twenty-four. Each county is entitled to at least one representative (44).
How Elected and When.—The members of the General
Assembly are chosen by the qualified voters (29) at the general election on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November in even-numbered years. The term of office of a senator is four years (30), and half of the senators are chosen every even year; by which arrangement half the membership of the senate consists of senators of at least two years' experience. Representatives are chosen every even year for a term of two years (30). The term of service of members of the General Assembly begins on the first day of December next after their election (29).
Eligibility.–Senators must be at least twenty-five years of age. They must have been citizens and residents of the State four years, and residents of their districts one year next before their election-unless absent on the public business of the United States or of this State. During their terms of office they must continue to reside within their districts (32). Representatives must be at least twenty-one years old, and their other qualifications are the same as those of senators. No person holding an office under the State or National government can be a member of the General Assembly (33). No person convicted of embezzlement of public moneys, bribery, perjury, or other infamous crimes, is eligible to such membership (34).
Sessions.—The General Assembly holds its regular sessions once in two years, beginning at twelve o'clock, noon, on the first Tuesday of January every odd year (31). The length of time for which the General Assembly shall sit is not fixed, but the regular session generally lasts five months. Special sessions are called only by the Governor (90). A special session of the senate alone may be called for the transaction of executive business, such as the confirmation of the Governor's appointments; but the house of representatives
cannot be assembled alone. Each house has its own chamber in the Capitol at Harrisburg.
Salary.-Senators and representatives alike receive such salary and mileage, for regular and special sessions, as may fixed by law, and no other compensation whatever for service on committee or otherwise (35). The law fixes the salary at $1,500 for a regular session, and $500 for a special session, regardless of the length of either. The mileage is reckoned on the basis of the ordinary mail route to and from their homes, at the rate of twenty cents per mile. Additional compensation in the form of $100 worth of postage stamps and $50 worth of stationery is granted.
Privileges of Members. The members of the General Assembly, except in certain specified cases, are exempt from arrest during attendance at the sessions; and for any speech or debate in either house they shall not be held responsible in any other place (42). Thus legislation cannot be impeded by the device of arresting and imprisoning members of the Assembly.
Organization of the Houses.-On the day fixed for the meeting of the General Assembly (31), the twenty-five senacors whose term of office has not expired and the twenty-five senators-elect meet in the senate chamber, and are called to order at twelve o'clock noon by the lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth, who by virtue of his office is the president of the senate (82). After the ceremonies with which the session opens, the newly elected senators take the oath of office prescribed by the constitution (132). A motion is then made that the senate proceed to the election of a president pro tempore (36). Nominations are made, the clerks call the roll of the senate, and each senator announces his choice by a viva voce vote (144). The next order of business is the elec