Can a Statute Be ''Immuned'' from Future Amendment ?
In City of Philadelphia v. Schweiker, 579 Pa. 591, 858 A.2d 75 (2004), the Supreme Court rejected the City's theory that the legislature can make "pledges" that immunize a statute from any later amendments.
With respect to the so-called "pledge" in Section 12 of the Parking Authority Law, the Court noted that "while this provision articulates a restriction on the Parking Authority's powers as they existed under the prior version of the statute, it does not constitute a pledge on the part of the Legislature never to alter those powers in the future." Schweiker, 579 Pa. at 613, 858 A.2d at 89 (citing In re Marshall, 363 Pa. 326, 337, 69 A.2d 619, 626 (1949) ("Legislative power is the power to make, alter, and repeal laws.")).
Further, the Supreme Court determined that the General Assembly's constitutional authority to regulate home rule governance includes the ability to limit home rule powers by legislation extrinsic to the Home Rule Act.
Amendments to the Parking Authority Law are examples of such limitations.
The Schweiker court also found that the now-repealed "retained earnings" provision of Act 22 gave primacy to the bondholders' interest and, therefore, Act 22 did not constitute a breach of Section 12.
The Court reasoned that Act 22 did not, in fact, impair the interests of the bondholders or place the City at a greater risk as guarantor of the bonds because the monies "available" for the School District are net revenues and do not include any funds needed to meet the Authority's outstanding obligations, including those to the bondholders.
The City focuses upon this specific determination as a factual basis for distinguishing Schweiker from the present case.
The City ignores the general proposition, reaffirmed in Schweiker, that the General Assembly may change existing laws regardless of whatever powers and protections were granted therein.
See also Commonwealth Association of School Administrators v. Board of Education, School District of Philadelphia, 740 A.2d 1225, 1231 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999), (noting "that rights granted under a statute are not contractual in nature ... and no constitutional rights are implicated if they are changed or eliminated.").