Pennsylvania Lawmakers Sworn In to New Term at Capitol

Pennsylvania State House in Harrisburg, Pa. AP

Pennsylvania lawmakers began their new session Tuesday with both chambers firmly in Republican majority hands and the prospect of another tough budget year ahead.

Top leaders of both parties are largely unchanged from the two-year session that concluded in November. Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, was re-elected as speaker, and Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, returned as president pro tempore.

Turzai said Republicans had "an obligation to govern'' and Democrats an obligation "to be part of moving legislation forward.''

"Be on the House floor,'' Turzai said. "It's a privilege to be able to vote on legislation, to speak on legislation, to advocate for it. You can change the direction of Pennsylvania.''

The floor leaders also remained the same: Republican Rep. Dave Reed of Indiana County and Democratic Rep. Frank Dermody of Allegheny County in the House, and Republican Sen. Jake Corman of Centre County and Democratic Sen. Jay Costa of Allegheny County in the Senate.

The most prominent leadership change occurred in the House, where Rep. Stan Saylor, R-York, was elected to chair the Appropriations Committee following the retirement of Rep. Bill Adolph, R-Delaware.

The oath of office was administered for members in both chambers, including 22 new representatives and six freshmen senators.

Republicans padded their already comfortable margins, entering the session with a 121-82 margin in the House and 34-16 in the Senate. The House has 40 female members, a record.

One of the House Democrats, Philadelphia Rep. Leslie Acosta, resigned her seat Tuesday. She secretly pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges last year. Acosta and two other incumbents were not sworn in.

The session is shaping up as a repeat of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's first two years, when tight finances and partisan disputes bogged down business.

Lawmakers will get a better look at what lies ahead on Feb. 7, when Wolf is set to deliver the governor's annual budget address.

State revenues are lagging expectations for the current year that will end June 30, and the projected budget deficit for next year is about $1.7 billion.

Wolf said last month he plans to propose a spending plan that will not require a major sales or income tax increase.