Pennsylvania Constitution

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Pennsylvania Constitution
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The Constitution of Pennsylvania is the basic governing document of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


The Pennsylvania Constitution consists of a preamble followed by 11 articles and two schedules.


See also: Preambles to state constitutions

The preamble to the Pennsylvania Constitution states:

WE, the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance, do ordain and establish this Constitution.[1]

Article I: Declaration of Rights

Article I of the Pennsylvania Constitution is entitled "Declaration of Rights" and consists of 28 sections and a preamble.

Article II: The Legislature

Article II of the Pennsylvania Constitution is entitled "The Legislature" and consists of 17 sections.

Article III: Legislation

Article III of the Pennsylvania Constitution is entitled "Legislation" and consists of 32 sections.

Article IV: The Executive

Article IV of the Pennsylvania Constitution is entitled "The Executive" and consists of 19 sections.

Article V: The Judiciary

Article V of the Pennsylvania Constitution is entitled "The Judiciary."

Article VI: Public Officers

Article VI of the Pennsylvania Constitution is entitled "Public Officers" and consists of seven sections.

Article VII: Elections

Article VII of the Pennsylvania Constitution is entitled "Elections" and consists of 14 sections.

Article VIII: Taxation and Finance

Article VIII of the Pennsylvania Constitution is entitled "Taxation and Finance" and consists of 17 sections.

Article IX: Local Government

Article IX of the Pennsylvania Constitution is entitled "Local Government" and consists of 14 sections.

Article X: Private Corporations

Article X of the Pennsylvania Constitution is entitled "Private Corporations" and consists of four sections.

Article XI: Amendments

Article XI of the Pennsylvania Constitution is entitled Amendments and consists of a single section.

Amending the constitution

See also: Article XI, Pennsylvania Constitution and Laws governing ballot measures in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Constitution is only explicit about one way to change it; namely, the process of a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The constitution does not lay out the rules for how a constitutional convention can be called but, nevertheless, the state has held five such conventions, mostly recently in 1968 when the current constitution was adopted.[2]

The rules governing legislatively-referred constitutional amendments are in Article XI, which has only one section. Features of Article XI are:

  • Either chamber of the Pennsylvania General Assembly can propose amendments.
  • If a simple majority of both chambers approves of a proposed amendment, that amendment must be "published three months before the next general election, in at least two newspapers in every county in which such newspapers shall be published."
  • In the next session of the legislature, the amendment must be considered again. If it is approved a second time by a simple majority of both houses, the amendment goes on a statewide ballot. This can be at any election date as determined by the state legislature.
  • " amendment or amendments shall be submitted oftener than once in five years."
  • Separate amendments must be voted on separately.

Pennsylvania also has a unique requirement for those times when the state legislature believes that a "major emergency threatens or is about to threaten the Commonwealth." If this happens, the proposed emergency amendment can be approved to go on a statewide ballot by 2/3rds of the members of each legislature. Election officials must promptly publish a notice of an election on the amendment "in at least two newspapers in every county" and the election can occur quickly but "at least one month after being agreed to by both Houses."

Also, "...when two or more emergency amendments are submitted they shall be voted on separately."

Regarding constitutional conventions, the state legislature appears to take as a matter of tradition, rather than explicit constitutional direction, that it can vote to put a constitutional convention question on the ballot. For example, Ann Livak writes in "Pennsylvania's Constitutions and the Amendment Process - Where it Began, Where it is Now" that " 1961, the Committee for State Constitutional Revision led by Milton J. Shapp got underway and in 1963 forced the legislature to call for a referendum on a constitutional convention....The 1967 legislature gave priority to constitutional revision and passed a convention enabling bill as well as the amendments awaiting second passage." (This suggests that the legislature voted only once to put the convention question on the ballot.)[2]


The province of Pennsylvania was originally governed by the book A Frame of Goverment. The book had four versions, released in 1682, 1683, 1696, and 1701. Pennsylvania's first constitution of its statehood was ratified in 1776. Four versions followed, one in 1790, 1838, 1874, and the latest in 1968. The 1968 version was heavily based on the previous constitution and is sometimes considered as a revision of the 1874 constitution.[3]

See also

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