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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court yesterday struck down a law that reduced Philadelphia’s control of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Act 230 of 2002 — the far-reaching legislation that mandated a reorganization of the Convention Center’s governing board, along with other changes related to the city’s infrastructure — is unconstitutional, the court ruled unanimously. In an opinion written by Justice Thomas G. Saylor, the high court concluded that Act 230 violated the Pennsylvania Constitution’s mandate that legislation deal exclusively with a single subject. The court gave the General Assembly 90 days to consider “remedial measures” to the legislation, or to allow for an orderly transition back to the status quo prior to Act 230. Saylor said that the court could not save one portion of the act as “germane to one topic” and reject another portion. “As it would be arbitrary to preserve one set of provisions germane to one topic, and invalidate the remainder of the bill,” Saylor wrote in City of Philadelphia v. Commonwealth, “we have no choice but to conclude that Act 230 must be declared unconstitutional in its entirety.” The transition period is necessary, Saylor said, because some of the elements of Act 230 have become the practice of the state government since the bill was signed into law by former Gov. Mark S. Schweiker in December 2002. The justices imposed a 90-day stay of their decision so that the Legislature can “consider appropriate remedial measures, or . . . allow for an orderly transition,” Saylor wrote. When the final version of Act 230 was passed and Schweiker signed the measure, altering control of the Convention Center was the main thrust of the new law. But Act 230 did not start out as a Convention Center bill, Saylor observed. According to the opinion, Act 230 was originally introduced before the General Assembly as Senate Bill 1100 in October 2001. At the time, it was only five pages in length and carried the title “An Act amending Title 53 (Municipalities Generally) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for governing body of municipal authorities.” At the time, the opinion continued, its only “substantive” provision was its requirement that board members of business improvement district authorities be citizens of the boroughs they represent. The bill was then sent to the state House of Representatives, according to the opinion, where it was “slightly altered,” with a measure added allowing gifts to municipalities to be held in trust. After that was completed, the opinion noted, the bill had passed the House and Senate after being considered on three different days by each legislative body, as prescribed by Section 4 of Article III. But by the time the bill came out of the Senate Rules Committee and was reported back to the full senate for concurrence, the opinion said, it was 127 pages long and featured a title that included about a dozen more provisions than it did in October 2001. The opinion also mentioned that the bill came before the full Senate for a final vote two days before the end of the legislative session. The changes to the bill addressed a number of Philadelphia-related issues. They included: the repeal of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority Act’s section requiring arbitrators overseeing certain collective bargaining disputes to keep in mind Philadelphia’s five-year financial plan when awarding salary increases to city police and firefighters; transferring authority over Philadelphia taxis and limousines from the Public Utility Commission to the Parking Authority; granting the Parking Authority the right to combine public facilities with commercial developments; halting the Philadelphia Finance Director’s control over the Parking Authority’s spending; and requiring small contractors involved in Philadelphia’s urban renewal projects to secure a bond for 200 percent of the contract when the contract is worth more than $10,000. The bill also called for the presiding officers and minority leaders of the General Assembly, as well as the four suburban counties, to each appoint one member to the Convention Center’s governing board, in addition to the two members appointed by the City Council of Philadelphia, the two chosen by the mayor, and the governor’s four picks. SB 1100 was approved by the full Senate on the same day it came out of committee, and was passed by the House on the next day. The city of Philadelphia and Mayor John F. Street sought a preliminary injunction from the Commonwealth Court in January of this year, according to the opinion. The Street administration argued that Act 230 would impair Philadelphia’s hospitality industry as well as hamper its position in bargaining with its uniformed employees. It also alleged in its complaint that Act 230′s “speedy and stealthy” passage violated the state’s constitution. The Commonwealth Court heard testimony from two representatives that the size of SB 1100 and the day it was voted on contributed to their failing to understand its total content, the opinion said. Ultimately, the Commonwealth Court enjoined implementation of Act 230 and returned the Convention Center’s board to its original makeup. The Commonwealth Court in its opinion would not categorize the passing of Act 230 as “stealth legislation,” instead labeling it “24-hour legislation.” The presiding officers of the General Assembly, the Commonwealth, the minority leader of the House, the Convention Center and the Parking Authority appealed the decision. The court disagreed with the appellants’ contention that the city would suffer no appreciable harm because of Act 230′s passage. “As all of the changes complained of flow from the enactment of Act 230,” Saylor wrote, “a causal connection exists between the asserted constitutional violation and the alleged harm. Thus, the city’s interest in this litigation is direct.” The court also noted that despite the longstanding practice of not “going behind” bills that have already been enrolled by the legislature, recent decisions have allowed the court to consider the “constitutional compliance” of enacted legislation. The court found the appellants’ argument that Act 230 fell under a single topic of “municipalities” to be flawed, thereby necessitating judicial review of the legislation. “Some Pennsylvania courts have become extremely deferential toward the General Assembly in Section 3 [Article III] changes,” so long as the various topics of one bill fell under a single, broad subject, Saylor wrote. He added later, “While this trend is consistent in principle with some early pronouncements of this court . . . it has resulted in a situation where germaneness has, in effect, been diluted to the point where it has been assessed according to whether the court can fashion a single, over-arching topic to loosely relate the various subjects included in the statute under review.” The opinion noted that the appellants’ proposed subject of Act 230 — municipalities — is in fact the subject of an entire Title of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. For that reason, the court concluded, SB 1100 was “an omnibus bill, whether or not it is called that in name,” Saylor wrote. In addition, the court found, even if that overly broad subject were accepted, it would still not have explained why the changes to the Convention Center — which the appellants called an entity of the Commonwealth — were included in Act 230. Finally, the court rejected the appellants’ claims that Act 230 could have been excepted from the single-subject rule because it codified municipality law. “We conclude that the exception to the single-subject requirement for legislation ‘codifying . . . the law or a part thereof’ pertains to bills which codify the law and make only such alterations in form and content as are necessary to effect the codification . . . The statute presently under review does not fit this description.” A spokeswoman for state Rep. John M. Perzel, speaker of the House, said that his office is reviewing the decision and will examine potential legislative options. “We feel that [Act 230] is good, much needed legislation,” she said, “and, obviously, so did the courts — they found no fault with the substance of the legislation . . . Our goal is to establish Philadelphia and Pennsylvania as a known national and international conference destination.” Robert C. Heim, a partner at Dechert who argued the city’s case, said that the other provisions of the bill were as much a cause for concern for the city as the more highly publicized changes to the Convention Center’s management. “When you get a unanimous decision, it sends a very strong message to the legislature: it really underscores that the court will protect the rights of the ordinary citizens,” Heim said. He added, “The big issue is, what happens now?” Heim said that the Act 230-imposed Convention Center board members stayed on after the Commonwealth Court’s injunction until the Supreme Court could resolve the matter. Milton Velez, special assistant to City Solicitor Nelson Diaz, said that he believed the city would not take any steps to dismantle the changes mandated by Act 230 until the Legislature had used up its three-month grace period. “We’re very pleased that the Supreme Court ruled in our favor,” Velez said. Heim was joined in handling the case by Dechert partner Jennifer R. Clarke and associates Edward T. Fisher and Philip N. Yannella, along with Philadelphia Law Department senior attorney Mark R. Zecca. John P. Krill Jr. of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart in Harrisburg, who argued the majority of the appellants’ case before the court, represented Senate President Pro Tempore Robert C. Jubelirer and the speaker of the House in the matter. He could not be reached for comment. Judith E. Harris, of Morgan Lewis & Bockius, represented the Convention Center. She did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment. Alfred W. Putnam Jr., of Drinker Biddle & Reath, was the Parking Authority’s attorney, Heim said. (Copies of the 44-page opinion inCity of Philadelphia v. Commonwealth , PICS NO. 03-1770, are available fromThe Legal Intelligencer . Please call the Pennsylvania Instant Case Serviceat 800-276-PICS to order or for information. Some cases are not available until 1 p.m.)

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