July 20 – With the resignation of Sara Innamorato, the PA House Representative from Allegheny County, the State House is now tied with 101 Republicans and 101 Democrats.
Democrat candidate Innamorato will run for Allegheny County executive in the November election.
House Speaker Joanna McClinton called a special election for that seat on September 19, a week before the House is scheduled to come back in session.
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “Isn’t the timing interesting? Because we just got everything all tied up with this stalemate over the budget. We have everybody in recess till September meaning that the time right now and there may be another resignation that would actually give the Republicans a one-up in the majority until things get resolved, but we’re in recess now and September when the new special election happens. Oh, wow, what a coincidence.”
Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “This is what drives me crazy with these recesses. The House is out of session for almost 12 weeks. Who would take a break this long in the real world? Well guess what? The state law says when there’s a vacancy, the Speaker of the House can call a special election, no sooner than 60 days after the resignation occurs. Well, this House member resigned yesterday. Joanna McClinton, the Speaker of the House, called the special election for exactly 60 days. The House is still in recess even after the special election. They will still be in recess for at least another week. So what’s going to happen here, this is a solidly blue seat. The Democrats will keep that seat. They’re going to hold the special election, have the new person sworn in. The House won’t even be back in session and then when they return to session, it’ll still be a one-seat majority for the Democrats. This is yet I think another example of why these prolonged recesses can be just so damaging to the governance of the state. So that’s how this is going to go down. The bottom line is there will be no change in the way the House is governed.”
PA Representative Rob Kauffman said, “It is a blue seat and it’s hard to fully figure out their calculation on how they get folks to resign and why they’re doing it at a specific time. There is one other seat that is in a similar situation and that’s John Galloway out in Bucks County. But the key with that one is that it is a working class blue collar kind of Bucks County seat, which we could play in.”
There’s been no word on a resignation from Galloway yet.
Kauffman continued, “The issue is that we are the second time this session pushing the pause button because of some political resignation maneuver instead of governing from the middle where we all work together, we’re getting things done. They cannot come into session because they refuse to govern from the middle. They’re governing from the far left and so they can’t effectively move the House forward with their far left agenda.”
Jansen said, “It’s amazing to me how much manipulation of process is going on. Even her getting that Allegheny County executive position. It’s like they brought her in and they played the whole identity politics thing. They even kind of gloated about it, a bunch of white men and she came in and they divided up that other vote. So she won the primary and then she’ll win because that’s an area where Democrats get elected overwhelmingly. Why can they run for two seats at the same time?”
Kauffman said, “She is a progressive newcomer in the last five years. She defeated what you would consider more of a blue dog kind of Democrat in the Allegheny County area. She’s kind of like the chosen progressive out there. That is probably the biggest issue. We need to enact legislation that prevents folks from running for two positions at once because this is what started this domino effect. You had people last year on the ballot for two positions, hedging their bets. That’s not why you’re in public service to hedge your bets.”
Jansen said, “I just want to ask though. It’s legal. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is the case, if you would win both, you get to choose which one you would take. That’s ridiculous. We’re playing musical chairs. We’re playing a chess game here, instead of caring about actually people electing who they want to elect. I’m tired of this whole manipulation of the process. I have to say Democrats have rolled the Republicans in the state it seems like with some of these shenanigans, but do you admire that or do you call it out for what it is kind of sick manipulation of the process?
Kauffman noted, “My hope is that the swing voters, these are the voters who supposedly want us to govern from the middle. I’m hoping they’re watching and I hope they’re paying attention and I’m hoping they have a memory because they’re seeing there’s no attempt to govern from the middle. There’s no attempt to get the people’s work done here in Pennsylvania. It’s all about an agenda. Here we are, we’re stuck.”
PA is most definitely stuck – the state is 20 days without a budget.
Kauffman said, “I don’t care what anyone says, we don’t have a budget. The only thing that was passed out of the House was the line by line numbers of the budget, but we can’t drive those dollars out until the House re-convenes and passes a fiscal code, an administrative code, an education code. You can go down the list of the bills we need to do to complete the job and we can’t do that.”
Barkdoll pointed out, “In light of that resignation yesterday, so you have a tie, an exact tie in the state House. I think it makes it even more unlikely that you’re going to see any action on this budget until at least late September because if they call the House back into special session, you’re not going to be able to do a party line vote to pull this off. So you’re going to be waiting now until the end of September and again, if you’re a local school district or a county government, you’re watching this situation very closely, because it’s almost assured now that you’re not going to get your state subsidy for at least another two months. It may go into easily three or four or five months.”
Jansen added, “And who are they going to blame? They’ll blame the Republicans ironically, when we can see all the manipulations going on behind the scenes here to make sure they don’t have the majority or the majority in the House is there whenever they are going to be taking any vote. This is ridiculous. This is political strategizing, making sure things are done. Honestly the GOP is getting rolled left, right and center and you may admire this strategy and say well look at those Democrats. Look how sly they are, but I’m sorry, they’re using the process. So when these school districts are getting hurt, they’re getting hurt by this strategy that the Democrats have put into place.”
Barkdoll noted, “A local school district person pointed out to me yesterday, even though our local districts seem to have very sufficient rainy day reserve funds to weather this if we get into September, October, November, so they’ll avoid taking out bank loans. However, remember those reserve funds are also drawing a substantial amount of interest for our school districts. In today’s interest rate environment, you have millions and millions of dollars in one of those funds. That’s generating income that’s helping offset your budget. Well, that’s now going to disappear. So on one hand, they’re going to avoid borrowing money, that’s good. But by dipping into the reserve funds, they’re going to erode their interest income that was built into the budget. So it’s a lose/lose situation if you’re a local school district.”
Speaking of schools, it seems as though the hang up for the budget is the voucher program introduced in the PA Senate that would provide scholarships for students in the lowest achieving 15 percent of PA schools to use for attending a school of their choice.
In the Republican-controlled Senate, Governor Josh Shapiro supported the voucher program. Once it passed the Senate and moved to the Democrat-controlled House, Shapiro flip-flopped and said he would line-item veto the program if the budget was passed.
Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill has a petition asking the governor to keep his initial promise about the scholarship program, which can be found here: https://senatorkristin.com/petition/
Kauffman said, “That’s a real issue. That’s not a partisan issue.”
In fact, a recent poll from Franklin and Marshall has shown that more than 70 percent of the people want school vouchers.
Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “If the school sucks, 15% of the worst performing schools, you should be pissed off about that, first off. Why is there such a failure and why am I paying them in the first place? The people that need it the most, in mostly Democrat cities are being failed by their politicians, by their educators, by their administration. We’re not even taking money away from the schools, you got $100 million that they were going to put for vouchers, and Josh still can’t get that done.”
Kauffman added, “And the irony is the people who want it and need it the most, in the inner cities, their legislators are the ones laying down in the railroad tracks for the teachers union. They’re the ones literally doing everything they can to stop it on behalf of the teachers union leadership.”