The state House of Representatives pleasantly surprised battle-weary Pennsylvanians recently when it raised the possibility that it would attend to business rather than political theater.
Republicans have a narrow and likely temporary 101-99 advantage in the chamber, even though Democrats won 102 of 203 seats in the November general election. Democrats are likely to restore that majority following Feb. 7 special elections to fill vacancies in three heavily Democratic Allegheny County districts.
In a rare bipartisan compromise, the House elected Democratic Rep. Mark Rozzi of Berks County as speaker. He vowed to operate as an independent.
Then, the chamber quickly returned to form. Rozzi, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, conducted a special session on allowing adult victims of such abuse a two-year window to sue their tormentors. But that went nowhere, prompting Rozzi to call an indefinite recess.
Now, two weeks after the surprise deal, 200 lawmakers whom taxpayers pay a base salary of more than $100,000 a year, are doing ... pretty much nothing.
Ideally, Democratic Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro will have a better result after he assumes office Tuesday. He, too, has vowed diverse bipartisanship in terms of personnel and policy. So far he has exercised it, embracing right-leaning policy such as school choice and nominating a demographically and politically diverse Cabinet.
He named two Republicans to major positions — former Philadelphia elections commissioner Al Schmidt as state secretary of state, and former state Sen. Pat Browne of the Lehigh Valley as secretary of revenue.
Shapiro's nominees from both parties tend to be from the middle, rather than either end, of the ideological spectrum. Democratic former state Rep. Mike Carroll of Avoca, nominated as secretary of transportation; and Democrat Jason Kavulich, Lackawanna County's director of the Area Agency on Aging, nominated as secretary of aging, both are known for attending to the practical aspects of governance.
Shapiro faced an extremist ideological flamethrower, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, in the general election. His vow to seek consensus and govern pragmatically clearly appealed to moderate Republicans. His Cabinet selections thus far indicate that his vow was governance strategy rather than political strategy alone. Here's hoping that it produces better results than those, so far, in the House.
— The Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre via TNS