Saturday, March 19, 2016

legislative power -improper delegation - lack of standards

West Philadelphia Achievement Charter School v. School District of Philadelphia – Feb. 16, 2016 - Pa. Supreme Court



Held: Sec. 696 of School Distress Law, 24 P.S. 6-691(c), violated Article II, sec. 1 (legislative power vested in General Assembly), because it gave power to a non-legislative body, without establishing adequate standards of restraint on the use of that power.

Article II, sec. 1 – legislative power – non-delegation
Article II, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution states that “[t]he legislative power of this Commonwealth shall be vested in a General Assembly, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.” PA. CONST. art. II, §1.  The nondelegation
rule has been described as a “natural corollary” to this text. . . . . The precept, which has its origins in the separation-of-powers doctrine . . . is of early lineage, see Wayman v. Southard, 23 U.S. (10 Wheat.) 1, 43 (1825) (Marshall, C.J.), and was expressed by political theorists who influenced the framers of the Constitution. See, e.g., JOHN LOCKE, SECOND TREATISE OF GOVERNMENT §141 (1690) (observing that legislative power “consists of the power to make laws, not to make legislators,” and indicating, moreover, that the legislature is not free to transfer its lawmaking powers to any other body because such power was delegated to the legislature by the people); cf. 1 WILLIAM BLACKSTONE,  COMMENTARIES ON THE LAWS OF ENGLAND *168 (1753) (remarking that a member of the House of Commons could not delegate his vote to a proxy “as he himself is but a proxy for a multitude of other people”). See generally BARON DE MONTESQUIEU, THE SPIRIT OF THE LAWS XI:6 (1748) (suggesting that political liberty requires a separation of legislative, executive, and judicial powers), quoted in THE FEDERALIST NO. 47 (James Madison).

Lack of standards – adequately defined standards
Legislative power may be delegated, so long as there has been a legislative establishment of primary objectives or standards and the entrustment to another entity to “fill up the details under the general [legislative] provisions[.]” . . . . So long as adequately-defined standards andmethodologies are provided by the Legislature, the administrative action involved may be as narrow as the grant or denial of a license, see, e.g., Casino Free Phila. v. Pa. Gaming Control Bd., 594 Pa. 202, 934 A.2d 1249 (2007), or as broad as the setting and adjustment of minimum and maximum wholesale and retail prices of a commodity to ensure fairness to producers and consumers and to regulate the supply of that commodity. See, e.g., Rohrer v. Milk Control Bd., 322 Pa. 257, 186 A. 336 (1936)

In the instant case,  the legislature had a salutary goal, but the means it chose to effectuate it were overly broad, basically carte blanche powers to suspend virtually any combination of provisions of the School Code – a statute covering a broad range of topics.  The Court’s decisions addressing the non-delegation rule have never deemed such an unconstrained grant of authority to be constitutionally valid.    The Distress Law also lacks any mechanism to limit the SRC’s actions so as to “protect[] against administrative arbitrariness and caprice.” Tosto v. Pa. Nursing Home Loan Agency, 460 Pa. 1, 12, 331 A.2d 198, 203 (1975); William Penn Parking Garage, Inc. v. City of Pittsburgh, 464 Pa. 168, 346 A.2d 269 (1975) (plurality);  Holgate Bros., 331 Pa. at 260, 200 A. at 675; Pennsylvanians Against Gambling Expansion Fund v. Commonwealth, 583 Pa. 275, 331, 877 A.2d 383, 417 (2005) (“PAGE”); Blackwell v. State Ethics Comm’n, 523 Pa. 347, 359, 567 A.2d 630, 636 (1989));  Bell Tel.v. Driscoll, 343 Pa. 109, 116, 21 A.2d 912, 915-16 (1941)).
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