PA House Resumes Legislative Session With Democrat Majority
The Pennsylvania House returned on February 21 to resume their legislative session for the first time in over a month. The chamber has been in a stalemate since January 3rd convening of the 2023 – 2024 session due to neither the Democrats or Republicans having the votes necessary to take control of the running of legislative business.
Last week the House passed two bills which is the first time it has acted on legislation this year. The bills that were passed addressed the issue of extending the statutory time frame in which adults who were victims of child sex abuse could file lawsuits against parties who perpetrated the crimes. These bills have been the long-standing goal of Speaker Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) who was a surprise selection to the Speakership in January.
His election was initially seen as a breakthrough for bipartisanship, but that aspiration quickly changed when Rozzi did not change his party affiliation to “independent” as the Republicans (whose votes were needed for his election) say he promised to do.
On February 7, Democrats won three special elections to replacing a deceased member and two members who had resigned to take higher office. Those elections gave the Democrats the clear majority in the House at 102 seats (to the Republicans 101 seats). This change marks the first time in 12 years that the Democrats will operate with a majority control of the PA House.
It is currently unclear whether or not Rozzi will step aside to allow Democratic Majority Leader McClinton to become Speaker. Another critical aspect at play is that the House has not adopted its rules for procedure for the session. That is necessary for the House to appoint committees and to outline how the chamber will operate on a day-to-day basis.
The bills last week were passed in Special Session, which adopted rules specific to that session. This week the House will need to adopt rules for the general sessions. Rozzi will offer a package of rules which he has stated would be reform measures. Notable of these would be one that would change the traditional party breakdown in Committees (15 majority -10 minority) to a 13-12 alignment. Another would allow for a procedure that would make it more difficult for a committee chair to bottle up legislation as a way of killing bills. The debate over new rules will likely dominate this week’s procedures. Although it is not certain who will ultimately be Speaker, the day of when Democrats will actually be running the House appears to near at hand.