It wasn’t much more than a year ago when upstart Speaker of the House, Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia), proclaimed a “new day” in the House of Representatives. To onlookers, a fresh start was anticipated with the promise that fairness and balance would prevail. Sixteen months into the session, it’s becoming clear what a “new day” looks like. 

It looks like stifling debate with parliamentary tactics. It looks like ignoring rules and procedure in committees and in the House Hall to limit discussion. It looks like accusations directed at members who merely have a differing viewpoint than the majority party. It looks like countless hours wasted on resolutions that accomplish nothing other than a feel-good photo op. 

But it’s been more serious than the customary goings on in the halls of our Capitol. It has arguably crossed the line from what might be allowable by a vengeful party coming out of the minority, eager to exert its will and grind an ax. 

This “new day” saw an alleged sexual predator in former Rep. Mike Zabel (D-Delaware) shielded by his party amid devastating and substantiated claims of repeated sexual abuse. Zabel should have resigned long before he did, and he did so (likely at the direction of his party leadership) only when it was politically safe, as the special election to replace him loomed and important votes to be taken in the House were long gone.

But most recently, and perhaps most egregiously, Rep. Kevin Boyle (D, Philadelphia) was permitted to vote from afar while allegedly being a fugitive at large with a warrant out for his arrest. Most interestingly, that warrant was rescinded the day before the primary election, April 22nd. Boyle, who was already in hot water from an alleged incident from months ago where he drunkenly threatened to shut down a hometown restaurant, was formerly thought to have violated a Protection from Abuse Order, and has since been missing. His absence and the melee that followed didn’t stop him, however, from voting on key bills as his party maintains a one seat majority in the House.

The Boyle voting dilemma dates back to February. After being discreetly stripped of his chairmanship and being barred from his Capitol office, parking space, and access to the Capitol building, his “ghost votes” have been cast for months, at the direction of his Democrat majority leaders. Further, the eleventh-hour announcement from Philadelphia area authorities that Boyle did not, in fact, violate a PFA, throws a new twist into the saga.

Other than obvious questions one might have about the ethics and the morality of an arrangement such as this, other more immediate questions are important to ask. Would this happen if Republicans had the majority? Would it happen if Democrats held a ten-seat majority instead of one seat? If Republican Joe Kerwin, who is currently deployed to Africa with his National Guard division can’t vote, why should someone like Boyle continue to vote while detached and unengaged? Was this last-minute announcement a House Democrat plot to defeat Boyle, instead handing victory to their candidate in primary challenger Sean Dougherty?

These questions are critical and the failure to get answers has been painful. It’s a symptom of a bigger problem. For the first time in more than a decade Democrats have controlled the Pennsylvania House and it has been among the most chaotic and least productive in history. A record low number of bills have been passed and signed into law. Further, the 2023 budget process almost stretched into the year 2024, with final passage coming just before Christmas. Then there was the three-month hiatus for a supposed “roof leak” that happened to coincide with several special elections to fill seats left vacant by resigning Democrats. 

This declaration of a “new day” seemed like a message of hope but as 60 percent of Pennsylvanians live paycheck to paycheck, struggling to get a handle on their energy bills and inflated goods at the grocery store, many might wish that we could go back to the way it used to be. 

The scandals, political maneuvering, and quest for power by Pennsylvania Democrats are bad, but what’s worse is this promised day that has dawned on every Pennsylvanian – a day that was grossly overpromised and drastically underperformed. This day continues to chase businesses out of our state and makes it harder for working families to make ends meet. Today is a gloomier day than it was two years ago. 

Rep. Joe D’Orsie represents the 47th District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, including portions of York County. Rep. David Rowe represents the 85th District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, including Snyder County and portions of Juniata, Mifflin, and Union Counties.

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