Pa. Legislature ushers in new members, starts another 2-year session

    Republican Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Turzai was reappointed to his second term as House Speaker Tuesday in Harrisburg. (AP file photo)

    Republican Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Turzai was reappointed to his second term as House Speaker Tuesday in Harrisburg. (AP file photo)

    Pennsylvania’s 201st legislative session is beginning, and the House and Senate have sworn in 28 brand new members between them.

    Republicans in both chambers expanded their already-formidable numbers during the election — the Senate now has a veto-proof majority, and the House is enjoying its largest GOP membership since the Eisenhower administration.

    The mood was festive Tuesday at the state Capitol as lawmakers took their oaths. But legislators from both parties said their minds are on the new dynamics this session will bring.

    Newly elected York County Democrat, Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, said the GOP dominance is somewhat daunting.

    “It means that we are going to have to compromise on some things that we might think are important to us,” she said.

    Republican Sen. Joe Scarnati was again appointed the Senate’s president pro tempore.  Meanwhile, Republican Mike Turzai, who was reappointed to his second term as House Speaker, had some stern words for lawmakers in his chamber about bipartisanship.

    “The majority party does have an obligation to govern,” he said. “And the minority party has an obligation to participate and be a part of moving legislation forward.”

    On the whole, his address was positive, recapping conservative successes such as fending off Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s attempts to pass tax increases.

    Turzai did briefly allude to the steep challenges ahead, however. He noted that while “we found ways to meet our obligations while holding the line on broad-based taxes,” there is still “more to do.”

    “More to do” refers to the fact Pennsylvania is entering its new session with a budget that’s expected to be $600 million short of projected revenues. That’s on top of a structural deficit valued at nearly $2 billion.

    One of the House Democrats, Rep. Leslie Acosta of Philadelphia, resigned her seat Tuesday. She secretly pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges last year.

    Lawmakers won’t reconvene until Jan. 23.

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