Uncertainty Still Exists Within PA House Of Representatives
Confusion continues to reign in the state House regarding which party will control that body for the two-year session.
The November elections resulted in the Democrats having on paper 102 seats (a majority of the 203 body) but one of those seats included a Democrat in Allegheny County that had died a couple weeks before the election but was still by law on the ballot.
On December 6, two other Democrats resigned, because they had been elected to other offices (Former Rep. Austin Davis will be sworn in as lieutenant governor next week and freshman U.S. Rep. Summer Lee).
That result was that on January 3rd (the date set for the election of the House Speaker) the actual number of members on the floor was split 101 Republicans and 99 Democrats-with neither party having the necessary votes to elect a Speaker.
The House Republican leader (Cutler-Lancaster) and 15 other Republicans voted with the Democrats to elect a Democrat House member (Mark Rozzi-Berks) as Speaker. The Republicans had been assured by Rozzi that he would change his party registration to Independent. Thus far that has not happened.
Meanwhile, on January 13th, a three-judge panel on Commonwealth Court ruled that Special Elections would be held February 7th to fill the three open state House seats instead of the May primary (unclear if Republicans will appeal).
These districts are heavily Democratic in terms of voter registration. However, if Democrats would win all three seats, neither side would have enough votes (on paper) to replace Rozzi as Speaker.
The Speaker has the power to appoint Committee chairs. That has not yet happened due to the unique uncertainty of this scenario.
Whether the Speaker appoints Republican or Democrats (or a mix) will determine the flow of legislation for the balance of the session.
Bottom line, the question of which party controls the Committee structure and ultimately the schedule of which bills will be considered on the floor will have a major impact on the government affairs strategy for the association.