The state House makes its highly anticipated return to Harrisburg today to swear in three new Democratic members from Allegheny County who won Special Elections earlier this month. With the House now at full complement, Democrats hold a razor-thin 102-101 majority, but as noted by the Associated Press, Democrats solidifying their majority might not resolve the gridlock that has prevented lawmakers from proceeding with session, including organizing committees and introducing bills.
And, while House lawmakers were initially expected to convene this week to consider operating rules for the 2023-24 legislative session, they’ll now only reconvene in special session today through and including Friday to consider legislation prioritized by House Speaker Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, allowing sexual abuse victims whose statute of limitations has expired to file lawsuits.
The reason for not returning to regular session may be that Republicans have reportedly not yet been provided proposed operating rules to review. House GOP Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, told reporters that without seeing copies of rules in advance, Republicans can’t be sure that they’ll vote to approve them. “Without copies of the rules in advance, what will we really be doing?” Cutler said. “If the Democrats are ready to lead, let’s see what they want to do… Let’s get the House operating an agenda that works on behalf of all Pennsylvanians. So far, we’ve seen very little, and that should concern every single taxpayer in this Commonwealth.”
There’s also the matter of who will ultimately lead the House. While at the moment, it’s Speaker Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, it’s possible that Speaker Rozzi could be ousted by Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, provided she has the votes. No matter what happens now, the current narrow majority means that even a single member leaving – which could very well occur over the next two years if anyone resigns, runs for another office, etc. – could cause a shift in leadership and party control in the chamber.