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C 2.15 - Periodic Review of Constitution

A JOINT RESOLUTION Proposing an amendment to article eighteen of the Constitution of the Common

wealth of Pennsylvania, providing for periodic reviews of the Constitution.

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hereby resolves as follows:

Section 1. The following amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is proposed in accordance with the provisions of the eighteenth article thereof:

That article eighteen of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania be amended by adding a new section to read:

Section 3. In the year nineteen hundred seventy-three and every fifteenth year thereafter, the provisions of this Constitution shall be studied and reviewed in the light of contemporary conditions and the anticipated problems and needs of the people of this Commonwealth. The General Assembly shall provide for a commission to perform the work.

For Historical Note and Comments, see page 78.

Land Title Registration

AN ACT Assigning an article and section number to a section of the Constitution of the

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania added thereto without designating its position therein.

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hereby enacts as follows:

Section 1. The section added to the constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by amendment adopted November 2, 1915, which reads:

“Laws may be passed providing for a system of registering, transferring, insuring of and guaranteeing land titles by the State, or by the counties thereof, and for settling and determining adverse or other claims to and interest in lands the titles to which are so registered, transferred, insured and guaranteed; and for the creation and collection of indemnity funds; and for carrying the system and powers hereby provided for into effect by such existing courts as may be designated by the Legislature, and by the establishment of such new courts as may be deemed necessary. In matters arising in and under the operation of such system, judicial powers, with right of appeal, may be conferred by the Legislature upon county recorders and upon other officers by it designated. Such laws may provide for continuing the registering, transferring, insuring and guaranteeing, such titles after the first or original registration has been perfected by the court, and provision may be made for raising the necessary funds for expenses and salaries of officers which shall be paid out of the treasury of the several counties.” and for which no article or section number was designated, shall be known as “Article III, Section 35 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

Section 2. This act shall take effect immediately. For Note, see pages 104-105.




The majority of the members of this Commission have voted that the best way to effect needed changes in the Constitution is by the process of amendment. We, the signers of this minority report, are compelled to dissent from that recommendation. It is our conclusion, in brief, not only that there is a great need for general revision of the Constitution of the Commonwealth, but also that the basic work of this Commission clearly demonstrates that need. We are strongly of the opinion that, in the light of contemporary conditions and the anticipated problems and needs of the people of the Commonwealth, a general revision not only is in order but also is long overdue.

We are glad to note, at the outset of this statement, that the Commission on Constitutional Revision has embraced a considerable number of significant proposals for change in the Constitution. Those proposals include, among other things, unrestricted annual sessions of the General Assembly, eligibility of an incumbent to a second term as Governor and the Pennsylvania plan for the selection of judges. These are constructive recommendations, but simply to put them and others forward separately falls far short of what is needed.

There is a wide recognition, in the minds of thoughtful students of public affairs, of the inadequacies of state constitutions generally to meet the challenge of our times and of the years ahead. This was pointed out very forcefully by the Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, which submitted its report to the President in June, 1955. The following excerpt from the report is particularly pertinent.

Early in its study, the Commission was confronted with the fact that many State constitutions restrict the scope, effectiveness, and adaptability of State and local action. These self-imposed constitutional limitations make it difficult for many States to perform all of the services their citizens require, and consequently have frequently been the underlying cause of State and municipal pleas for Federal assistance.

It is significant that the Constitution prepared by the Founding Fathers, with its broad grants of authority and avoidance of legislaive detail, has withstood the test of time far better than the constitutions later adopted by the States. A due regard for the need for stability in government requires adherence to basic constitutional principles until strong and persistent public policy requires a change. A dynamic society requires a constant review of legislative detail to meet changing conditions and circumstances.

The Commission finds a very real and pressing need for the States to improve their constitutions. A number of States recently have taken energetic action to rewrite outmoded charters In these States this action has been regarded as a first step in the program to achieve the flexi

bility required to meet the modern needs of their citizens.

A principal reason that the state governments have not been playing a more effective role in the Federal system is the failure of the states

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to strengthen state governmental institutions and processes. We are convinced that the needed strengthening cannot be achieved by a piecemeal attack on the problem. We believe that we can make this clear in a relatively short statement. Looking specifically to the Constitution of this Commonwealth, one finds conspicuous evidence that the Constitution of 1874 was anything but a flexible, basic charter of government. It was plainly a reflection of the times. In the 1870s the people of the state were keenly concerned about problems of corruption in government, which, unhappily, were a mark of the times. This resulted in the making in the Constitution itself of many rather detailed policy decisions, which were designed to cope with then contemporary problems, but which have no necessary relevance to this day. This Commission has recognized that there are a great many sections of the Constitution which are outmoded and should be eliminated. The point, however, goes deeper than this; the Constitution of 1874 is characterized by a kind of distrust of government and a tendency toward rigidity in structure and authority, which is not conducive to a healthy climate of public administration and does not afford the flexibility for the development of strong and effective governmental institutions. It is in marked contrast with the Constitution of the United States in this respect. The latter is a relatively simple document, which, for the most part, is couched in broad terms and is not grudging in the provision of governmental authority in keeping with responsibility.

The need of revision of the Pennsylvania Constitution has been aggravated rather than otherwise by the considerable piecemeal amendment which has taken place over the years. The people of the state have added some 59 amendments. Many of these amendments have, of course, involved very important matters and have been most needful. The overall effect, nonetheless, has been to increase the amount of ephemeral detail in the Constitution, to increase the rigidity of the document and to make the Constitution, as a whole, more a patchwork and less a coherent basic charter of government. Thus, the need of revision has been increased.

The point has been repeatedly urged by opponents of revision that a number of efforts have been made in the past to achieve revision without any success, which is to be taken as an indication that the cause is hopeless. We are not at all impressed with this reasoning. We see no basis for the impression that Pennsylvania is different in this respect from other states, several of which have adopted new constitutions in comparatively recent years. That some previous attempts were unsuccessful is no criterion as a present guide because the last few decades have evolved more changes in our body politic and in economic and social conditions than in any previous period in the history of our Commonwealth. In our view, the people of Pennsylvania, once adequately informed on the subject, will be found entirely willing to replace the present antiquated instrument of government with a well-conceived, flexible, organic law, which is fully responsive to the needs of our increasingly complex society.

The work of this Commission strongly supports the case for revision. The Commission's report lists in all 123 recommendations for amendment, - to say nothing of several others that might well have been adopted. If all of the recommendations of the Commission are taken into account, we have what amounts to proposals for substantial revision of the executive article, the judicial article, the article on county officers, the article on cities, the article on private corporations, and the article on

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