News & Brews January 4, 2023

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And the House speaker is …

Well, this was unexpected. Yesterday, House lawmakers chose Democrat Rep. Mark Rozzi (Berks County) as the next House Speaker. Spotlight Pa reports, “Rozzi’s selection surprised many Capitol watchers, as his name had not been publicly floated for the position. But what he did next was perhaps even more shocking. In remarks made after his selection, Rozzi, who was elected as a Democrat, announced he would no longer caucus with the party and would act as an independent.” More than a dozen Republicans joined all Democrats in backing Rozzi. Spotlight PA has more.

Speaker election puts extra weight on special elections 

The fate of three vacant House seats has taken on added significance as newly elected House Speaker Mark Rozzi announced he would caucus with neither Republicans nor Democrats. Before Rozzi’s announcement, Republicans held 101 seats to Democrats 99, with three seats in Democrat-leaning districts vacant. Under those numbers, if Dems win all three, they would have held 102 seats to the GOP’s 101. But now, even if they win all three, the practical split could hypothetically be 101 Dems, 101 Republicans, and 1 member acting as an independent. PennLive wrote more about the specials (before the speaker election).

As Fetterman sworn into Senate, Ward becomes temporary Lt. Gov. 

Yesterday, John Fetterman resigned as Lt. Gov. just before he was sworn in as Pennsylvania’s newest U.S. Senator. As such, Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward took over as Lt. Gov., but she will hold the position only for two weeks until Lt. Gov.-Elect Austin Davis is sworn in on January 17. In the meantime, Ward will handle “all the duties of the office of lieutenant governor, which include presiding over the state Senate sessions, chairing the state pardons board and chairing the state emergency management committee.” The AP has the story.

WSJ Editorial: Pa., Fix your elections

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board says states have two years to “fix voting snafus” before the 2024 elections. In case you’re wondering which state is foremost on the Ed Board’s mind, you don’t have to wonder for long: “Perhaps nowhere needs action more than Pennsylvania.” If past is prescient, “who knows” what would happen in Pa. if ballots (again) went to court.

School funding lawsuit enters 9th calendar year

The 2014 lawsuit challenging how Pennsylvania funds public education has dragged into 2023, with “no timeline or deadline” for a ruling. The suit “argues that the state’s funding of K-12 education is inadequate to the point that it violates the state’s constitution.” (This despite the fact that Pa. spends more per student than the national average.) As attorney general, Gov.-Elect Josh Shapiro sided with the plaintiffs (and against taxpayers) in the case. WHYY has more.

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