The Local Government Commission, created in 1935 by an act of Assembly, is one of the oldest agencies of its kind in the United States. The Commission is comprised of five Senators and five House Members, appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House, respectively. It is a bipartisan legislative service agency affording research assistance to the General Assembly, collectively, and to individual Legislators as well. Another primary function of the Commission is to propose legislation that will enable local governments to be more effective and efficient in providing services.
Moreover, after the adoption of Article IX (Local Government) of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which was proposed by the Constitutional Convention of 1967-68 and subsequently ratified by the electorate on April 23, 1968, the General Assembly passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 152 of 1968, which delegated to the Local Government Commission the authority to recommend to the Legislature proposals for implementation of Article IX.
Administrative duties and functions of the Commission are carried out by a small professional staff, including an executive director, an assistant director, a legal counsel, an associate legal counsel, three research analysts, and two support staff.
Major established functions and responsibilities of the Commission are as follows:
- The staff performs in-depth research projects on matters considered important by the Commission for all levels of local government. The research may be done solely by the Commission's full-time staff or in cooperation with other state agencies. Current or recently completed in-depth research projects by Commission staff include studies pertaining to: municipal police training; Real Estate Tax Sale Law; municipal tort liability; tax-exempt property; police classification and categorization; real estate assessment process; cable television impacts upon municipalities; Local Government Unit Debt Act; state mandates placed upon local governments; municipal fiscal distress; county row officer fees; personnel practices, contracting procedures, and ratemaking of large municipal authorities; and a revision of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code.
- The Commission has become the major resource for Legislators who need various types of assistance in the field of local government. This includes contact with constituents in their respective legislative districts at the request of the Legislator.
- The Commission holds quarterly meetings to provide a forum at which statewide local government associations present their concerns, possible amendments to municipal codes, and other legislative proposals which they deem important to local government. Commission staff provides the research necessary to analyze proposed legislation for validity and pertinence. Proposed legislation is then presented to the full Commission and, if approved, is introduced in the House or Senate under Commission sponsorship.
- Resolutions adopted at the annual conventions of statewide local government associations such as the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, Pennsylvania State Association of Township Commissioners, Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association and Pennsylvania State Association of Elected County Officials are submitted to the Local Government Commission. The resolutions are thoroughly reviewed and researched by staff and then presented to Commission membership for consideration and possible introduction as legislation.
- The staff follows applicable local government legislation through the legislative process, in order to serve as an "instant" research source for Legislators seeking background or technical information.
- Commission staff provides technical assistance to standing committees on local government in both the House and Senate. Staff also attends meetings of those committees to assist in the discussion of legislation under consideration.
- The Commission is statutorily responsible for updating and printing the County Code, First Class Township Code, Third Class City Code (and Optional Third Class City Charter Law), Borough Code, and Second Class Township Code, and distributing them to municipal officials throughout the Commonwealth.
- Staff develops a summary of acts signed into law by the Governor for distribution to Members of the Legislature and to other interested parties upon request. Many Members have come to rely upon this service, particularly since they lose track of legislation once it has left one chamber and gone to the other chamber.
- The Commission office is frequently contacted by outside parties who have questions relating to local government in Pennsylvania.
- Pursuant to Act 180 of 1972, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Law, the Commission is required to review certain intergovernmental cooperation agreements.
Local officials throughout the Commonwealth have a direct line to the General Assembly by way of the Local Government Commission. The local government associations are in regular contact with the Commission. Since the Commission is both bicameral and bipartisan, representatives of these associations are able to express their views before both Senators and House Members as well as Members from each of the four legislative caucuses. It is with the cooperation and dedication of the local government associations that the Local Government Commission has succeeded in the past. The Commission will continue to serve the associations in an attempt to improve and strengthen local government in Pennsylvania.