Some top Pa. Senate committees see turnover after many years

Lawmakers will return to session next week. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo, file)

Lawmakers will return to session next week. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo, file)

Senate Republicans have announced their slate of committee chairs for the coming two-year legislative session.

These powerful positions give lawmakers in the majority party a lot of leeway to decide which bills come up for debate.

One of the biggest changes to the slate of chairpeople is in the powerful Judiciary Committee.

For 30 years it has been helmed by Montgomery County Republican Stewart Greenleaf, who retired last year. Greenleaf was known as a moderate who pushed to depart from the state’s tough-on-crime criminal justice approach.

His replacement is Luzerne County’s Lisa Baker, who indicated she’ll carry on reform efforts.

“The quality of justice, the fairness of our laws and policies, and fundamental access to the judicial system, those are issues of intense public interest and spirited legislative debate,” she said.

Changes have also come to the Education Committee.

Former chair John Eichelberger, of Blair County, left the chamber last year after an unsuccessful congressional bid. He was known for his support of charter schools and aversion to funding boosts.

His replacement is Lancaster County’s Ryan Aument who, in a press release, highlighted a commitment to post-graduate readiness.

House and Senate Democrats also announced picks for their chairpeople, who serve in a less-powerful minority capacity.

Notably, the House caucus doesn’t have any women senior enough for the positions.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have so few members that they’re all chairing committees, regardless of seniority. One member, James Brewster of Allegheny County, is chairing two committees.

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