Why have a special session on reform?

Since the call for a special session for reform, some critics (i.e. Mark Cohen and Governor Rendell) oppose the idea, while others express support, but think it won’t do any good – i.e. they could enact legislation in regular session, and there is no guarantee of success.  Here are three reasons for a special session.

  1. Why not?  No one has suggested anything bad will happen if there is a special session, only that it might not be successful.  So what?  A special session is like a Hail Mary in football.  Time is running out, and our team is down by more than a field goal. No coach who wants to keep his job would call for a kneel down to run out the clock – which is what not calling a special session equates to.   
  2. A special session forces lawmakers to take a stand.  The only reason to oppose a special session would be to stifle any potential reform.  If there is momentum to call a special session (i.e. 26 Senators and 102 Representatives signing on), then there should be momentum to enact substantive reform – such as calling a constitutional convention or initiative and referendum.
  3. A special session puts pressure on lawmakers to get stuff done.  If no reforms are passed in the regular session, everyone can blame Governor Rendell for a busy agenda, or their legislative leaders for calling so few session days.  However, few lawmakers facing re-election would want to have a special session and pass nothing substantive.