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Pa. House Republicans steadfast on blocking embattled state Rep. Boyle’s votes

Pennsylvania state Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Philadelphia) speaks during a House committee hearing. (Credit: Pa. House Democrats)

Peter Hall, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
April 26, 2024

The withdrawal of an arrest warrant earlier this week for state Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Philadelphia) has not changed the resolve of Republican lawmakers to stop his vote from being counted while he is absent from the House chamber, a GOP spokesman said Friday.

Democrats, who control the House by one vote, say they are powerless under the chamber’s rules to revoke the letter that Boyle signed to allow his vote to be cast by the majority whip, a common practice among lawmakers that allows them to attend to other matters during routine votes. 

“Voting by designation is a longstanding practice of the chamber and all members are permitted this option,” Democratic spokesperson Beth Rementer told the Capital-Star. “The right to rescind a valid designation is not a right of the Majority Leader or even the majority of the chamber — it is a directive of the individual member.”

Boyle has been absent from the House following an embarrassing social media incident in February and unrelated legal troubles. His current whereabouts are unclear.

House GOP spokesman Jason Gottesman said Republican leaders remain steadfastly opposed to Boyle’s vote being counted when the House returns to session Monday.

“Our position has not changed,” Gottesman told the Capital-Star. “The facts are clear that Rep. Boyle needs help and while he is receiving that help he should not be casting a vote in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.”

Democrats plan to move forward with a resolution introduced by Majority Leader Matt Bradford last week that would amend the House rules to allow the suspension or expulsion of a member who is incapacitated, Rementer said. 

The push to remove Boyle from the roll call comes at a sensitive time for House Democrats, who have fought to hang on to their one-vote majority over the last 16 months through a series of resignations as lawmakers moved to higher offices, a death, and a sexual harassment scandal. 

Losing Boyle’s vote would leave the House evenly divided at 101-101 after Jeffrey Olsommer, a Republican who won a special election Tuesday for the 139th Legislative District, is sworn in once election results are certified. The seat was left vacant when Rep. Joseph Adams (R-Pike) resigned due to illness in January.

Boyle, 44, was relieved of his committee assignments and had his Capitol security privileges revoked in February after video of an outburst at a Montgomery County tavern circulated widely on social media. In the video, Boyle is seen threatening to have the bar shut down after he was asked to leave. Police in the Philadelphia suburb of Rockledge said they were investigating the incident. 

Earlier this month, the Philadelphia district attorney’s office said it had issued a warrant for Boyle’s arrest on charges he had violated a protection from abuse order obtained against him by his ex-wife. Boyle was arrested in 2021 for violating a protection from abuse order obtained by his then-wife.

Then, on eve of the primary election in which Boyle faced a challenge from a candidate recruited by the Democratic Party to run against him, District Attorney Larry Krasner and Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel announced that the arrest warrant had been issued in error.

Krasner said that while there had been a protection from abuse order against Boyle, it was not in effect at the time he was alleged to have violated it. But, Krasner added, the withdrawal of the charge of violating a protection from abuse order did not mean Boyle was out of legal jeopardy.

“It’s very common in a domestic violence situation that there may be more than one possible offense that is available as a charge. What our announcement means today is that the offense of violating a protective order is not available in this case,” Krasner said.

Boyle, who lost the primary to Sean Dougherty, the son of state Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty and nephew of former labor leader John Dougherty, has not spoken to police or the district attorney’s office, Krasner said.

Rementer did not respond to a question about whether Boyle’s whereabouts are known to Democratic leaders. “They remain deeply concerned about Kevin’s mental wellness and they continue to urge their dear friend to get help,” Rementer said.

Messages left with staff for U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-2nd District), who is Kevin Boyle’s older brother, were not returned.

In a statement, House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said he does not believe the resolution on incapacitated members, proposed by Democrats, is necessary.

House Resolution 403 would provide for the creation of a House Rules Committee subcommittee on incapacity inquiries. Consisting of the House speaker, majority leader, majority caucus chair, minority leader and minority caucus chairperson, the subcommittee would conduct an investigation of a member’s capacity to perform their duties upon a confidential request by the floor leader of either party.

Speaking to reporters April 17, the day after the warrant for Boyle’s arrest was first reported, Cutler said the appropriate response would be to place Boyle on leave.

“I think they’re taking advantage of him simply to maintain a 102 majority and that’s wrong,” Cutler said. “That’s wrong on a purely a personal level and it’s wrong in terms of the precedent that they are setting because they are literally saying that anybody can vote as long as they have a signed paper until it’s revoked. If he goes to prison, how will he revoke that? That’s a legitimate question.”

Cutler said Democrats should follow the precedent set when Boyle was arrested in 2021 and when former state Rep. Margo Davidson (D-Delaware) was arrested for filing fraudulent reimbursement requests, hindering a state prosecution and violating the state Election Code. In those cases, Boyle was placed on leave and Davidson resigned immediately. 

“We do not need complicated answers to simple problems,” Cutler said in a statement Friday. “House Democrats must join with us in immediately stopping Rep. Boyle’s ability to vote in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives until this issue is finally resolved. Pennsylvania House Democrats continue to use this tragedy to continue the tyranny of their majority and that is shameful.”

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.