By Anita Kulik
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives ends and starts a new session every two years. It is typically a quiet end, with little going on after election day.
The House is “lame duck” until the first Tuesday in January when all members are sworn in for the new session. The current session ended on Nov. 30. Even though members are not sworn in, the new session technically starts on Dec. 1. No legislation can be considered in December of an election year, because members have not been officially sworn in, but incumbents keep their offices running and new members have time to set up their offices before January.
After election day, the House and Senate hold one last session week. Usually, this is only to elect new leadership. The last session week in November for the House and Senate was anything but typical, as the changing horizon, especially for the House, caused legislation to be quickly voted on in this lame-duck session.
One vote that passed overwhelmingly, with only one “nay” vote, was to stop state vehicle leases for members of the House.
This had been proposed as legislation, but the House and Senate could not reach an agreement on the issue.
As such, the House voted to end the practice of leased vehicles for our members. Only a handful of House members use state-leased vehicles, as the practicality of such has come into question over the years.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, businesses around the globe went remote, sending their employees home with their computers. The House did the same thing. The House also adopted a temporary rule that allowed for proxy and remote voting for members. This enabled House members to call in their votes on any given session day or appoint a proxy to cast the vote for them.
This rule change was voted on again as the pandemic continued. It was brought up for vote again on the last session day in November, this time on a vote to end remote voting. Interestingly, several members of the House chose to vote remotely to end remote voting. Remote and proxy voting for the House was suspended by a party-line vote. While some argued that in-person voting has been the norm since the legislature began, others contended that the move to end it was a political ploy to keep check on numbers as the House will be seeing changes in its membership in the upcoming session. While the measure passed, it could resurface at any time during the next session.
It will be an interesting start again in January, as there may not be a clear majority in the House, or if there is, it will be very slim. In the past, when legislators chose to vote strictly in line with their political affiliation, there was little effort to achieve meaningful resolution of issues.
The new face of the legislature could result in “good politics,” as both sides will need to work together in a bipartisan way to get anything done. It could, however, make for bad politics if the leadership on both sides does not work together.
As we get closer to the holidays, we need to keep in mind all those who work through the season.
So many of our friends, family and neighbors work long hours, nights or even on the holidays themselves.
Those in retail are working much longer hours.
Those in the medical profession, EMS, police and fire professions never stop working. Kindness and gratefulness to these good people is a must this time of year.
A case of water or a box of snacks goes a long way in showing gratitude to those who never stop working for us.
Most importantly, a simple “thank you” is always appropriate. We need to recognize the difficult jobs that many of these people do for the good of society. Especially for our first responders, they are jobs that many of us would or could not do.
As we approach the end of this year, and the beginning of a new year, I want to again remind you that my staff and I are here for any state-related issues that you may have.