PA House Majority Again In Contention

Party control of the Pennsylvania State House has once again been called into question due to circumstances surrounding a legislator for whom an arrest warrant was issued this past week. Rep. Kevin Boyle (172nd district, D-Philadelphia) is being sought by police for an alleged violation of a protective abuse order.

When the issuing of that warrant became public, the House Republican minority began to challenge the counting of Boyle as an absentee vote of the House floor.  Not counting Boyle would reduce the number of Democratic House members to 101.  The number of votes needed to pass legislation is 102.

As the week went on, the House Democratic leadership began to establish a process that could result in Boyle being expelled from the House. The legislator has reportedly been suffering from mental illness over the past several months that has manifested itself in several public episodes.

The timing of an expulsion could have a serious impact on the proceedings of the General Assembly. A special election would need to be called, which by law is required to be held no earlier than 60 days from the vacating of the seat. This could come amidst the debate beginning in coming weeks over the state budget, and proposed priorities announced by the Governor earlier this year.

Although the Democrats would maintain control of the state House until at least after a special election, being short of the 102 threshold could deadlock legislative action. The upcoming Pennsylvania primary election on April 23rd will not include the special election to fill the 172nd district seat.

This will be a highly intensive election year in the House, with all 203 seats up in November. The battle will be over which party will ultimately control the chamber, with the Democrats operating with just a one vote majority this past session.