By SUSAN JONES
Democrats won easily in the special elections held for three open state House seats on Feb. 7, finally cementing the Democratic majority in the lower legislative body for the first time since 2010.
PITT ADVOCACY DAY
Because of scheduling issues, the University was unable to set up the annual Pitt Day in Harrisburg, and will instead have smaller events, including a Pitt Advocacy Day on Feb. 28.
The Office of Government Relations and Advocacy is asking the Pitt community to celebrate the University’s birthday on Feb. 28 with a day of advocacy in support of Pitt students.
The entire University community is encouraged to get involved by contacting their elected officials to advocate for the University and higher education funding. Participants will be able to follow a few links on the Government Relations website to contact their representatives and share their stories of how Pitt has made a positive difference in their life.
More information will be available new week on with.pitt.edu and in Pittwire next week.
Much of the work of the House has been delayed until the three races in the Pittsburgh area were decided. The gridlock has so far prevented lawmakers from even adopting operating rules for the 2023-24 session.
An Associated Press story this week said that Republican House Minority Leader Jay Cutler has warned of chaos when legislators reconvene next week, if the operating rules are not presented before that.
The newly elected lawmakers include Joe McAndrew, Abigail Salisbury and Matthew Gergely from the heavily Democratic 32nd, 34th and 35th districts, respectively. Salisbury is a double Pitt grad, with degrees from the School of Law and the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. She also has taught at the law school as an adjunct professor.
The Democratic lead in the House is now 102-100, with one seat open after Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-Northumberland) resigned after winning a state Senate seat earlier this month. The Senate remains in Republican control.
Who will lead the House also is still undecided. In January, lawmakers elected a compromise candidate, Mark Rozzi (D-Berks). Now with the Democratic lead solidified, the party may replace Rozzi with House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia).
Republicans have expressed frustration with Rozzi, who they say has not fulfilled his promised to be an independent leader.
An email from the Pitt Office of Government Relations and Advocacy last week said the House will return to session earlier than previously expected, with voting days now scheduled for Feb. 21 to 23. The House is currently scheduled to be in session just one week in March and another in April.
What comes next?
Gov. Josh Shapiro will present his 2023-24 budget proposal on March 7. House and Senate committees will hold hearings on the budget throughout March.
Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and the leaders of the three other state-related universities — Penn State, Temple and Lincoln — are scheduled to testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee on March 30. No date has been set yet for the House hearing because committee assignments have not been finalized.
The Pitt government relations office email said its team has been meeting with House and Senate members during the recess and “is ready to hit the ground running.”
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
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