What are Legislative Committees and How Do They Affect You?

Posted Mar 6, 2024, by Jason Capello

PA state legis

Legislative committees are an integral part of the democratic process in the United States. They are groups of legislators assigned to study, debate, and amend proposed bills before they are presented to the full House or Senate for a vote.

The PA House and Senate write and enact legislation. Each legislative chamber has mirroring committees that are assigned to review legislation for their respective field. This makeup allows for a more streamlined process, so legislators do not need to be knowledgeable in all fields but only in certain fields. These committees are tasked with reviewing bills that they see as being worthy or not worthy of the entire Chamber to discuss. There are 21 standing committees, which could also be broken down into subcommittees. Subcommittees are used to handle more complex legislation. Typically, each standing committee is made up of 15 majority-party chamber members and 11 minority-party chamber members. The President Pro Tempore appoints the chairman, vice chairman, and the members of each committee. The idea of congressional committees is just a simple division of labor, where you have committees that typically have jurisdiction-specific policy areas they’re responsible for.

The chair of a committee is given the authority to decide whether or not to review and debate a bill within the committee. If they decide not to debate it, then the bill goes nowhere, and it will never be voted on by the full chamber. If the chair does decide to review and debate the bill, then the committee votes on whether or not to accept it as written and move it to the entire chamber floor to debate and vote on it.

In short, the majority party in either chamber historically is the party that holds the power to move legislation through the Pennsylvania Legislature.

Here is a breakdown of the committees CCJ works with regularly:

Appropriations: determines how much money and funding goes to certain programs, agencies, and districts. They are directly responsible for budget allocations.
Environmental Resources & Energy: has jurisdiction ovr matters relating to the management of Pennsylvania’s air, land, and water, including conservation, development, and planning of energy source/management of natural resources.
Labor and Industry: responsible for considering various issues pertaining to employers and employees, including workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, workplace safety, building codes, and workforce development.
Health and Human Services: responsible for legislative and policy priorities impacting public health, human services, the state’s medical assistance program, substance use disorders and addiction treatment options, mental and behavioral health services, and rural health.
Rules and Executive Nominations: responsible for the rules of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, administration of state buildings, and with credentials and qualifications of members of the General Assembly, including responsibility for contested elections.


  • Jason Capello

    Jason Capello is a community advocate at CCJ. Jason has just recently moved back into the area, having left to teach in his hometown of Lebanon, Pa for the last 7 years. Jason has a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education: Science from Gwynedd Mercy University and a Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies from California University of Pa. No stranger to the field: Jason has worked for The Department of the Interior on the National Wildlife Refuge System, conducted/published research on environmental remediation, worked with local municipalities developing MS4 plans, monitoring protocols for pollutants and running educational outreach programs. Jason is excited to work in the community advocating for the people and habitats he now calls home. Contact Jason at jason@centerforcoalfieldjustice.org.

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