LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT FAQS
WHAT IS THE PA LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT AMENDMENT?
The Local Self-Government Amendment is an amendment being proposed to the Pennsylvania Constitution in order to empower people and their local governments throughout the state with the authority to enact local laws that protect the rights of people, communities, and the natural environment at the local level. The Amendment would specifically recognize the right of local community self-government in the Pennsylvania Constitution's Bill of Rights.
ARE OTHER STATES PROPOSING A LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT AMENDMENT?
Yes. Colorado, Oregon, and New Hampshire are all proposing Local Self-Government Amendments to their state constitutions. Ohio is also preparing a Local Self-Government Amendment.
WHY IS A STATE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NECESSARY?
Today, the law elevates the rights of private corporations over the rights of people who live in Pennsylvania communities. Private corporations regularly invoke these rights and privileges when their interests conflict with communities' attempts to protect the local environment, economy and workforce, rural aesthetics, and residents' health, safety and welfare. The Local Self-Government Amendment would empower people and their local governments with the authority to enact local laws that protect the rights of people, communities, and their natural environments over the interests of private corporations.
WILL THE PA COMMUNITY RIGHTS AMENDMENT AFFECT ECONOMIC STABILITY?
Corporate domination destroys stable local/regional economics and forces economic instability. The Local Self-Government Amendment places local economic control in the hands of local people, which improves every measure of environmental and human well-being leading to a long-term economic stimulus. When corporate exploitation of individuals, communities and nature lessens, it will create more room for more diverse, localized small business enterprises to take hold in ways that make them directly accountable to the communities they serve, increasing economic welfare, diversity, and sustainability of communities.
WILL THE PA LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT AMENDMENT UNDERMINE CURRENT RIGHTS AND PROTECTIONS?
No. The proposed Local Self-Government Amendment includes two provisions that limit its scope in this regard. Local laws enacted under the amendment cannot restrict or weaken the fundamental rights of natural persons, communities, or nature secured by local, state or federal constitutions or international law. These provisions ensure that the floor of rights and protections already established by state or federal governments can be built upon but not eroded.
WILL THE PA LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT AMENDMENT BAN ALL CORPORATE PROJECTS?
No. Under existing law, corporations can sue state and federal laws to override a community's attempt to protect themselves from corporate projects within their boundaries regardless of local opposition, or environmental harm. The Local Self-Government Amendment confronts this structure of corporate legal privilege by asserting the community's right of local self- government. Under the Local Self-Government Amendment, a community can create local laws that prohibit such projects without interference from corporations or "preemption" by government. If a community chooses not to use their authority under the Local SelfGovernment Amendment, nothing in its local codes or charters will change.
DOES THE PA LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT AMENDMENT CONTRADICT PA OR FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONS?
No. The right of local community self-government recognized by the proposed Local SelfGovernment Amendment can be found within the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. The right is also embedded in the PA Constitution, which states in Article 1, Section II, "All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their peace, safety and happiness. For the advancement of these ends they have at all times an inalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think proper." The PA Constitution has powerful language, but does not specify the right of local community self-government free from state and corporate overreach.
WHAT ARE THE EXISTING METHODS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE?
In the original 1776 PA constitution, county-based representatives could call for amendments. But that authority was stripped out, leaving citizens with no authority to make changes in the way our government operates. Pennsylvania's current constitution (Article XI) places sole authority for proposing amendments and constitutional conventions in the hands of the legislature. To be clear, citizens have no formal process for submitting issues to the voters to consider. The General Assembly (House and Senate combined) has been given the authority originally belonging to the people.
PACRN is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to helping Pennsylvania communities establish local self-governance, social justice,