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Pennsylvania House Dems propose new expulsion rules after remote voting by lawmaker facing a warrant


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania House Democrats on Thursday proposed a process to determine if state representatives are “incapacitated” and to sanction or expel them, moving in the wake of intense criticism after one of their members voted remotely this week while being sought on charges he violated a restraining order.

The resolution introduced by Majority Leader Matt Bradford of Montgomery County would establish a new group consisting of five House leaders to determine if a representative is impaired physically or mentally so that they are not able to perform their duties.

His proposed rules change is a response to voting during this week's legislative session by state Rep. Kevin Boyle, a Philadelphia Democrat who faces an arrest warrant on allegations he violated a restraining order. Details about the warrant have not been released, and Boyle has not responded to phone messages seeking comment left Thursday and earlier this week.

A Philadelphia Police spokesperson, Officer Tanya Little, said Thursday afternoon that Boyle is not in custody.

Boyle lost his committee chairmanship and Capitol access privileges in February after a videotaped episode at a Montgomery County bar where he was aggressively rude to the staff and appeared intoxicated.

Boyle’s status carries significant implications for the power balance in the 203-member House, currently with a 102—100 Democratic majority and a special election next week for the one vacant seat in a Republican-leaning district in the Pocono Mountains.

Republican leaders have decried Boyle's ability to vote remotely, telling reporters Wednesday that House Democrats should have simply put Boyle on leave and accusing their Democratic counterparts of allowing Boyle to vote remotely to preserve their thin majority.

Minority Leader Bryan Cutler, a Lancaster County Republican, called Bradford’s proposal a complicated answer to a simple problem. He asked Democrats to “join with us” to stop Boyle from voting “until this issue is finally resolved.”

“Pennsylvania House Democrats continue to use this tragedy to further the tyranny of their majority and that is shameful,” Cutler said in a statement. The House returns to session April 29.

A Republican from Fayette County, Rep. Charity Grimm Krupa, announced on Wednesday she was working on a proposal to change House rules to prevent anyone from voting remotely if they are incarcerated or facing an active arrest warrant. And the only Republican in the House from Philadelphia, Rep. Martina White, said her office has been fielding calls from Boyle’s constituents because his nearby district office hasn’t been responding.

Bradford press secretary Beth Rementer said going on leave or changing a remote voting setup is each representative's prerogative.

“To assert otherwise would allow the majority of the chamber to interfere with the will of the voters,” Rementer said in an email.

Boyle, 44, is currently facing a primary opponent as he seeks an eighth term in the House. His brother is U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Democrat from a Philadelphia district.

Kevin Boyle was charged three years ago with harassment and violation of a protection from abuse order after showing up at his wife’s house, charges that were subsequently dropped. His attorney at the time described it as a “domestic issue” that did not involve allegations of violence. Kevin Boyle later said he was treated at a mental health facility.

Bradford's proposal would allow targeted lawmakers to participate, with a lawyer, in the inquiry that would be done by the speaker, minority and majority leaders, and minority and majority caucus chairpersons. The group would meet in secret and could direct that the lawmaker whose status is in question be examined by doctors or psychologists. It would have subpoena power.

If the group would deem a House member to be incapacitated and unable to perform their duties, it would be up to a vote of the full House to decide whether to limit their powers and privileges, suspend them without pay or expel them. If the lawmaker hasn't been expelled and has completed treatment, they could ask to get their powers or status back.

Mark Scolforo, The Associated Press

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