(The Center Square) – Democrats cemented control of the Pennsylvania House on Tuesday after winning three special elections near Pittsburgh.
Joe McAndrew, Abigail Salisbury and Matthew Gergely all sailed to victory in their respective districts, according to state election returns.
McAndrew will fill the empty seat left behind after Rep. Tony DeLuca died in October. The districts won by Salisbury and Gergely became vacant after U.S. Rep. Summer Lee and Lt. Gov. Austin Davis were elected to higher office in November.
The victories mean Democrats will hold 102 seats in the House of Representatives, capturing a narrow one-seat advantage after more than a decade in the minority.
Now, the question remains, what will happen next? Just hours after the polls closed, three new session days were added to the House schedule, beginning Feb. 21. This, after House Speaker Mark Rozzi, D-Temple, had initially adjourned the chamber until the end of the month after a tense five weeks of gridlock in Harrisburg.
Rozzi made the decision when negotiations with Republican leaders to establish a set of operating rules – typically a mere formality that unfolds in the first days of each new two-year legislative session – hit a wall last month.
The confluence of events – starting with Rozzi’s unlikely ascent to the House’s highest-ranking position – saw Republicans forfeit the power of their functional one-seat majority until Tuesday’s elections, and the anticipated Democratic wins it would bring.
Now, one seat ahead, it appears Rozzi won’t need to broker any deals with his colleagues across the aisle to establish rules, which give the chamber the ability to form committees, hold hearings and schedule votes.
In an interview with WITF, however, the speaker said he’d weigh all of the public input his bipartisan workgroup heard while on their statewide listening tour to find compromise on operating rules.
Perhaps more crucially, however, Democrats can forge ahead on their No. 1 legislative priority: passing a constitutional amendment that gives adult survivors of child sexual abuse two years to sue their perpetrators in civil court.
Republicans in the Senate teed up the amendment, and two others, for a vote in the lower chamber last month. But the package, which included voter ID and regulatory reform, riled Democrats. And with no rules in place, the lower chamber soon missed the deadline to approve any amendments in time for the May primary election.
House Republicans support the two-year window, but legislative sources say Rozzi’s obstruction to recall session was just a delay tactic meant to buy time until the special elections came to pass.
Christen Smith is the Pennsylvania News Editor for The Center Square and brings with her more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues from all angles. She’s a Pennsylvania State University alumna and has been published in the The Washington Examiner, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, RealClear and Broad+Liberty, among others.
This article was republished with permission from The Center Square.