The month of February began with much anticipation for the three February 7 special elections in Allegheny County that would ultimately determine control of the PA State House, thus ending a weeks-long standstill in the chamber — and by extension, the entire legislative branch. During this time, House Speaker Mark Rozzi continued his statewide listening tour to solicit feedback from constituents throughout Pennsylvania, many of whom expressed frustration and disappointment with the partisan gridlock in Harrisburg.
As early campaign finance reports indicated, Democratic candidates won all three special elections, making campaign and party staffer Joe McAndrew, attorney Abigail Salisbury, and McKeesport political fixture Matt Gergely the state’s newest House Representatives in Districts 32, 34, and 35, respectively. The three representatives filled seat vacancies left by the late longtime state Representative Tony DeLuca, U.S. Representative Summer Lee, and Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis. These elections gave Democrats a one-vote majority in the House for the first time in 12 years. Representatives McAndrew, Salisbury, and Gergely were officially sworn in on February 21.
On February 24, the state House approved legislation in Special Session that had been at the top of House Speaker Mark Rozzi’s priority list and would open a two-year window for sexual abuse victims whose statute of limitations has expired to file lawsuits. A few days later, on February 28, Speaker Rozzi officially stepped down as Speaker, paving the way for the House to elect Representative Joanna McClinton to the House speakership in a 102-99 vote. She is the first female and second Black person to serve in the role. Shortly after her swearing in, House Democrats formally announced their leadership team:
On February 27, Lynda Schlegel Culver resigned her position in the House in order to be sworn in as the new Senator for District 27 — increasing both Senate Republicans’ majority and House Republicans’ minority. Senator Culver fills a vacancy left by former Senator John Gordner, who left his seat to take on a new role in the office of Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward. A special election to fill Senator Culver’s former seat in the House has not yet been called.
On March 1, the House finally passed its operating rules for the two-year term. The rules are a bit different than previous terms as changes include:
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