PRESS RELEASE: CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ANNOUNCED TO SECURE THE RIGHT OF LOCAL COMMUNITY SELF-GOVERNMENT
Rep. Danielle Friel Otten (D-Chester) Introduces A Constitutional Amendment To Give Our Communities More Power to Protect Health, Safety, and Welfare
October 4, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Malinda Harnish Clatterbuck, PA Community Rights Network, President
Yesterday, Rep. Danielle Friel Otten (D-Chester) introduced an amendment to the PA Constitution, HB1813, which would secure the right of local community self-government. This proposed amendment has grown out of the foundation laid by the PA Community Rights Network, which has worked with communities across PA for nearly a decade.
Rep. Otten was joined in her announcement by local elected officials and community leaders from her district including:
-Bill Miller: Uwchlan Township Supervisor, Chairman
-Rebecca Britton: Downingtown Area School District, Board Member; Uwchlan Safety Coalition, Co-Founder
-Erin Buchner: Moms Demand Action, Chester County Local Lead
-Dianne Herrin: West Chester Borough, Mayor
-Malinda Harnish Clatterbuck: PA Community Rights Network, President; Lancaster Against Pipelines, Co-Founder
Pennsylvania communities have been handcuffed when it comes to making important decisions, on important issues. Preemptive laws passed by our legislature have removed meaningful decision-making authority from local elected officials and community leaders. Those laws also protect corporate interests at the expense of community health and safety.
Here’s a short list of those issues: Fossil fuel pipelines, single-use plastics, common sense gun oversight, fracking and frack waste dumping, minimum wage and other labor protections, factory farms, sewage sludge dumping, police and prison oversight, campaign finance abuse, toxic waste incinerators. The list goes on and on.
“We can’t keep fighting every single harmful intrusion, every single time, for the rest of our lives,” said Malinda Harnish Clatterbuck, board president for the PA Community Rights Network. “The time is long past due to make sure that our constitution secures the rights of ‘We the People’ to make decisions in our best interests, and to determine our own future. HB 1813 does that, and we’re proud to stand with Rep. Otten and leaders across the state as we work to make this not just an aspiration, but a reality.”
For decades, PA communities have fought to protect their communities from harmful corporate projects and illegitimate state overreach in all areas of life. Hundreds of communities have found that the existing system of law does not allow us to adequately protect our health and safety. We are now convinced that the only way to win lasting change is to change our constitution to put the rights of communities first.
That's why we are thrilled that Representative Danielle Friel Otten has put forward HB1813 for a Constitutional Amendment for the Right of Local Community Self-Government. Join us and Rep. Otten at 1 p.m. at the Uwchlan Township building (715 N Ship Rd, Exton, PA 19341) this Thursday, October 3rd for the official announcement, and to learn more about how you can support the growing movement!
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.
PA communities are currently living under a system of law that legalizes activities which threaten our health, safety, and welfare; this system is also used to violate our constitutional rights and deny us the ability to make decisions of crucial importance to our communities.
Pennsylvania's first constitution, adopted in September 1776, was widely regarded as one of the most democratic and liberty-protecting constitutions of the Revolutionary Era. Unfortunately, court cases and legislation have, over the decades, rendered some of the most important values in our constitution meaningless, including:
Article I, 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."
Art I Section 25 "To guard against the transgressions of the high powers which we have delegated, we declare that everything in this article is excepted out of the general powers of government and shall forever remain inviolate."
Art I Section 27 "The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people."The proposed amendment to the PA Constitution would help further secure those rights,by explicitly recognizing the right of local community self-government. This right shall include provisions that legally empower our communities to stop unwanted, harmful,corporate activities, free from illegitimate preemptive laws and corporate interference
PACRN is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to helping Pennsylvania communities establish local self-governance, social justice,