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October 2, 2012Announcements

DRN Files Lawsuit to Challenge Constitutionality of Act 80 of 2012

The Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania (DRN), together with Community Legal Services and private co-counsel, filed a lawsuit on October 1, 2012 in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court to challenge the constitutionality of Act 80 of 2012.  Act 80 eliminated General Assistance cash benefits effective August 1, 2012 and created the Pilot Block Grant Program.  The Pilot Block Grant Program authorizes DPW to select 20 counties that will be permitted to divert at least part of various county human services allocations – including mental health and intellectual disability base funds – to fund other types of social services.

The lawsuit contends that the General Assembly disregarded procedural protections in the Pennsylvania Constitution when it enacted Act 80 in June of 2012, in the closing hours of the last fiscal year, without opportunity for required debate and consideration.  Specifically, Act 80 violates:  (1) Article III, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution because its final purpose changed from its original purpose; (2) Article III, Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution because it contains more than one subject, and, in fact, contains at least seven discrete subjects ranging from the elimination of General Assistance cash benefits to the establishment of the block grant program for county human services to extensions of foster care subsidies for youth aged 18 to 21 to changes in welfare to work requirements to extensions of an assessment on nursing facilities; and (3) Article III, Section 4 of the Pennsylvania Constitution because neither chamber of the Legislature considered the bill on three separate days.

In addition to these violations, the lawsuit also contends that the Pilot Block Grant Program violates:  (1) Article III, Section 24 of the Pennsylvania Constitution because it authorizes DPW and the counties to spend funds on services and programs other than those for which the General Assembly appropriated the funds, and (2) Article II, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution because it constitutes an unlawful delegation of legislative authority to the Executive.  Finally, the lawsuit alleges that, regardless of its constitutionality, DPW violated the Commonwealth Documents Act in its implementation of the Pilot Block Grant Program by failing to promulgate written standards or criteria concerning its implementation, including the criteria used to select participating counties.

The Petitioners have filed an Application for a Preliminary Injunction to stop DPW from implementing Act 80.

DRN represents the Mental Health Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers Association, and the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania.  They are joined by three individuals who lost their General Assistance benefits, the Pennsylvania Community Providers Association, the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers of Pennsylvania, The Philadelphia Alliance, and Success Against All Odds.

To view the lawsuit, click here.

To view the press release, click here.

Thank you,

Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg