PA Republicans furious as House Dems table amendments that would strengthen victims’ rights during pardon process

11 December 2023- Pennsylvania House Democrats gave an early Christmas gift to criminals and convicts Monday by silencing Republican voices and tabling a series of amendments that would have retained the deliberative process of recommending pardons to the governor, House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said.

“House Democrats have time and again silenced Republican voices and used processes that they themselves abhorred to shut down Republican ideas,” Cutler said. “In doing so today, House Democrats have told crime victims they do not matter as they push through a reckless proposal that could make our communities less safe.”

The tabling of amendments came during the amendment debate on House Bill 1410, a constitutional amendment sponsored by Speaker of the House Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) that would change the current requirement of unanimous Board of Pardons support to recommend a pardon to the governor to merely requiring a three-fifths vote of the board.

The tabled amendments include:

A02973 (Kutz) – Would require the Board of Pardons notify any victim or next of kin of the victim’s or next of kin’s right to submit prior written comment or offer testimony at the full pardon hearing in open session. Failure to comply would cause any related action by the Board of Pardons to be null and void.
A02974 (Davanzo) – Would require publication of the recommendation in at least two newspapers in every county in which such newspapers would be published in the case of a sentence of death or life imprisonment. 
A02975 (Scialabba) – Would require the Board of Pardons notify any victim or next of kin of their right to submit written comment or offer testimony at the pardon hearing; would require the OAG to appoint an attorney to represent the interests of the victim or next of kin; and would prohibit the board from remitting fines and forfeitures, granting reprieves, commuting sentences or pardoning any individual until the victim or next of kin has been afforded the opportunity to submit written comment or offer testimony.
A03013 (Mihalek) – Would create a sliding scale (from 3/5 to unanimous) for pardon recommendations based on the severity of the crime.

“Today, House Democrats blocked my amendment that would have increased the requirements for dangerous criminals to be pardoned for their crimes,” Mihalek said. “House Democrats had a choice to stand up for victims of heinous crimes and instead stood up for violent criminals.”

Cutler concluded noting House Democrats did a disservice to crime victims and their families while eviscerating the long-standing pardons process.

“While these thoughtful amendments may have technically been tabled, what really occurred is crime victims, their families and the process have been thrown under the bus by House Democrats,” Cutler said. “This is another example of House Democrats weaponizing the rules to try and make bad law without true bipartisan input.”

House Bill 1410 is scheduled for a final vote in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Tuesday.