HARRISBURG The 2013-14 session of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
opened today with the election of Rep. Sam Smith (R-Jefferson County) as speaker.
Taking the oath of office were 201 of the 203 members (see note below). The House also adopted a set of rules governing how the body operates.
Speaking to the newly sworn-in members, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai
(R-Allegheny County) said:
"Pennsylvania is facing many issues and problems, and the question you all
need to ask yourselves is, do you want to be part of the solution, or irrelevant?"
This is a consensus-driven place; there are any number of bills introduced to deal with similar problems or issues; it takes some give-and-take, some compromise to get a solution to the governor’s desk. One of the lessons to reach consensus is the importance of working together, not necessarily as a partisan, but as partners finding solutions to the problems we face… to change Pennsylvania."
In a House Chamber packed with family, friends and guests, 201 members recited the oath of office administered by former Rep. Craig Dally, now a judge on the
Northampton County Court of Common Pleas. Dally represented the 138th District in Northampton County. There are 29 new members, 10 Republicans and 19 Democrats.
According to the Pennsylvania Constitution, the General Assembly must convene at
noon on the first Tuesday of January each year. The last time the House convened to swear-in members on Jan. 1 was 1991.
Following the administration of the oath, Rep. Kurt Masser (R-Montour,
Northumberland and Columbia counties) nominated Smith for the position of speaker; Smith was elected unanimously and took the oath of office. Dally administered the oath to the speaker.
"Liberty and freedom is the legacy of William Penn and the original Provincial
Assembly, but those words have different meanings to different people,"Smith said. "Our words are the bricks and mortar of what we build. Our success
will not be measured by the name on the bill or the number of laws enacted. Our
success will be measured by the quality and meaning of our words."
Following the election of speaker, a joint session of the General Assembly was held to officially certify the election results of the state row offices: attorney general, auditor general and treasurer.
Prior to adjournment, the House voted to adopt the rules that govern how the body will operate. The 2013-14 House Rules, proposed as House Resolution No.1, will be the same as the 2011-2012 House Rules with only two changes, as follows:
A technical correction to Rule 34 (correcting the
constitutional citation which appears to have been in the
rules for multiple sessions).
A change in the Rules Committee makeup in Rule 46, allowing
both the majority and minority to each appoint two
additional members, making the committee’s membership
18 from the majority party and 15 from the minority party.
In his remarks, Turzai reminded members the operations of the House have changed
dramatically over the last five sessions through a strong commitment to making the
House and state government as a whole more open and transparent.
“House Rules are important to ensure each member has an opportunity to state
his or her opinion concerning proposed legislation,” Turzai said. “The
ultimate expression of that opinion, however, is a member’s vote.”
Priorities for the 2013-14 legislative session, according to Turzai, will continue
to be improving the state’s jobs environment and crafting, for the third
straight year, an affordable, sustainable, and responsible state budget.
According to Turzai, reducing the state’s debt and reforming the
state’s borrowing programs will be on the agenda this session; more than $1
billion is paid for debt service in the state budget, which is money unable to be
spent on education or bridges.
Other issues expected to come before the House this session include public pension
reform; privatization of wine and liquor sales; education funding reforms, including
charter and cyber-charter school funding; and special education funding.
“Legislators must be about getting to ‘yes’ to governing;
‘yes’ to finding solutions; and ‘no’ to harmful special
interests,” Turzai said. “It is time to get over the parochialness of
bureaucracy protection, and deal with consumer protection; it is time for the state
to get out of the liquor business.”
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NOTE: Two hundred and one members were sworn in today. A vacancy exists with the
departure of former Rep. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny County) who resigned to take a seat as a state Senator. Rep. Frank Farry (R-Bucks County) was unable to be in
Harrisburg due to an illness; he will be sworn in at a later date.