First Fight of the New PA Legislature Could Come Jan. 6

Dec 30, 2014

Republicans in Harrisburg are still floating the idea of trying to take advantage of a quirk in the state constitution that separates the swearing in of the Legislature and the governor by more than two weeks. 

Members of the House and Senate will take their oaths of office Jan. 6 (the first Tuesday in January) and the governor is not sworn in until Jan. 20 (the third Tuesday). Rumors have been floating that the Republicans will try to push through several pieces of legislation objectionable to Democratic Gov.-elect Tom Wolf in those first two weeks in an effort to the get them to the desk of outgoing Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.

“This is not only inappropriate and unprecedented, but it is also inexcusable,” Democratic Senate Minority leader Jay Costa said.

Costa said if the Republicans try to hold a lame duck session it would sour the party’s relationship with the Democratic Party as a whole and Tom Wolf in specific.

“It is something we should not be doing,” Costa said. “The citizens of Pennsylvania have spoken and they have chosen a different governor with new ideas to move Pennsylvania forward.”

The Republicans picked up three seats in the Senate in the November elections (30-20) and eight seats in the House (119-84) making it easier to pass controversial legislation. The lame duck status of the governor and some lawmakers could also help tip the balance.

“The idea that a January lame duck session would be productive is ludicrous and really counter to any conceivable measure of good government,” argued Costa.

Bills involving the privatization of the state liquor store system, union regulations and pension reform could be on the agenda.

“This ill-conceived idea to empower and use an unacceptable governor in his last days in office to revive already rejected polices is an act of desperation,” Costa said.

A spokesperson for Corbett said the governor would consider any legislation that comes to his desk in January. 

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, who also serves as the president of the Senate, has said the caucus leaders will determine whether it's good public policy to meet in such a micro session.

Incoming House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) has not ruled out a session but has not set any dates.