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HARRISBURG — Members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives will elect a new speaker on Tuesday. However, unlike most parliaments, it is not clear who they will be, what political party they belong to, or even how long they will serve.
It’s also unclear whether the normally ceremonial day of swearing-in and celebrations will be overshadowed by political maneuvering as Democrats and Republicans vie for control in a tightly-divided House.
Democrats won the November midterm elections after 12 years of strong Republican control of the state legislature. Surprise 102 to 101 majority in House of 203 MPsSince then, however, the question of which party will actually come to power in the new session has turned into unprecedented territory.
This is thanks to some vacancies the Democrats have won and disagreements over who has the power to schedule special elections to fill those vacancies.
We won’t be able to answer all the questions on January 3rd, but it will be at least until February to see which party’s candidate will get enough support to lead the House and which party will have the bureaucratic upper hand. It will answer at least some of your questions, such as whether you can—at least temporarily—through the rules process.
Here are some facts that everyone in the state House agrees on. won more seats In November, but on January 3rd, Republicans are expected to have 101 members versus 99 for Democrats — a functional majority.
It is also widely agreed that special elections should be held in the coming months to fill these vacancies. His one of these elections will take place on his February 7th, replacing State Representative Tony DeLuca. He died before winning re-election to the 32nd District of Allegheny County. The constituency is strongly supported by the Democratic Party, which has an advantage in retaining seats.
But legislative leaders remain divided over when to schedule elections to fill the two other Democratic seats in Allegheny County. They resigned after Austin Davis and Summer Lee were re-elected and were elected Lieutenant Governor and Representative respectively.
Those seats also have strong support to stay in Democratic hands.
Democrats hope to fill those two seats on Feb. 7 as well.Republican i want to wait The seat will remain vacant until the primary election in May as long as it is legally possible. A state appeals court is expected to decide Who has the authority to make that decision.
Further complicating the math is the scenario in which Republican Rep. Linda Schlegel-Culver is running to fill a vacant seat in the state Senate and will resign from the state House if she wins. That special election will take place on her January 31st, and her resignation will take place once the results are confirmed. Then set a special election day, whoever the speaker is.
In practice, this means that the Republicans will almost certainly retain a functional advantage of one or two votes until at least February 7th. GOP members Told Spotlight PA They want to use this majority to push for some broad constitutional reforms, including one that requires all voters to show identification when voting.
If the Democrats can pick special election dates for all three vacancies and successfully retain their seats, they are likely to regain a majority after February 7.
If Republicans get their way, the House could end up in a 100-100 draw after February’s special election, keeping the House in a stalemate for at least a few months.
Who can be a speaker?
The Speaker of the State Legislature has the power to control the floor, coordinate debates in the floor, decide which bills will be voted on, elect committee members, and schedule special elections.
In past sessions, it was common for the party with the most members to elect its own chairman. But when the numbers get closer, things get complicated.
The most notorious example in recent memory is the 2007 Democrats’ narrow victory at could not Organize the caucus behind one speaker candidate. Instead, Majority of Democrats allied with the Republican Party He pledged to work closely with the Democrats on a power-sharing pact to nominate and endorse Republican centrist Denny O’Brien.
This year’s power struggle is even more complicated, with Republicans currently in the House of Representatives, but Democrats likely to regain a majority within weeks or months.
Democratic leader Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia), who will be nominated for Speaker of the House, insists her party deserves a majority despite the vacancies.she told reporters She expects Republican lawmakers to yield their votes to her, as is customary when one party holds a majority.
The Democrats could convince a few Republicans to vote for the compromise bill, but it’s unclear at this time if such a person will emerge.
Rep. Brian Cutler (R. Lancaster), who served as Speaker of the House in the last session, has said he will not run for the office, and other members of the Republican leadership have shown no interest. Rep. Valerie Gaydos (Republican, Allegheny) is so far the only Republican to wear a hat in the ring to publicly get a voice.
It is very likely that the speaker selected at the beginning of the session will only take on that role temporarily.
In past sessions, lawmakers generally agreed A new speaker may be elected at any time if the majority of the members want a different leadership. These power grabs aren’t unprecedentedIf the Democrats claim numerical superiority, even if they don’t win this week’s power struggle, they have a good chance of putting up their own speakers.
But some Democrats warn that even with a Republican majority, the current functional majority could tweak House rules, weakening Democratic control. is ringing
What are the rules?
At the beginning of each new biennial term, the House and Senate adopt rules governing the actions of members of Congress. These rules govern the size and party composition of the committee, the process of voting and passing legislation, and more. It also covers more mundane housekeeping issues, such as banning smoking on the floor of the State Capitol.
Most rules don’t change much from year to year, but small tweaks can make a big difference.
In the case of this control of the legislature, some Democrats fear Republicans will pass rules that strengthen Republican power over committees or raise the bar to hold new leadership elections. I say yes. Many.
Still, the Democratic Party is likely to make its own rule changes once it regains a majority.
Spokespeople for both the Republican and Democratic caucuses declined to comment on those possibilities.
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https://www.spotlightpa.org/news/2023/01/pa-midterm-election-2022-democratic-majority-speaker-election-session/ PA lawmakers to pick new speakers after 2022 midterm elections Spotlight PA