House Democrats regain thin majority

And election news from around the commonwealth

Posted 9/27/23

HARRISBURG, PA — After two months of an evenly divided Pennsylvania House, a special election in Allegheny County has once again given Democrats a slight edge, 102-101. 

Last week, …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

House Democrats regain thin majority

And election news from around the commonwealth


HARRISBURG, PA — After two months of an evenly divided Pennsylvania House, a special election in Allegheny County has once again given Democrats a slight edge, 102-101. 

Last week, Democrat Lindsay Powell defeated her Republican challenger, Erin Connolly Autenreith, a Realtor who chairs a local GOP committee. Powell—director of workforce strategies at InnovatePGH, a public-private tech group in Pittsburgh—has spent time in Washington, D.C., working for the likes of Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

According to her campaign website, Powell’s top priorities include providing “safe and dignified housing” for all, addressing rising child-care costs and student debt, reforming healthcare and raising the minimum wage.

Powell’s victory gives control of the House back to Democrats ahead of the lower chamber’s first scheduled voting day in more than two months, September 26—a date which will pass while this edition of the River Reporter is being printed.

Top of mind for most lawmakers: passing long-overdue “code bills” which will free up around a billion dollars in the state budget, which has been clogged in the drain of partisanship.

Brief budget timeline

The budget-writing process was contentious from the start this time around, thanks to disagreements over education. Republicans were pushing for a $100-million voucher program, which would have eased the financial burden for families who opt out of sending kids to their local districts. Democrats vehemently opposed the voucher program, saying it would take precious dollars away from the state’s already underfunded public education system.

Muddying the waters, Gov. Josh Shapiro originally said he supported the voucher program—prompting the Republican-led Senate to pass the budget. However, he then vowed to veto that same program, giving the Democratic House a green light to pass the budget as well.

The vast majority of the $45.4 billion budget was enacted to keep the commonwealth functioning. Feeling double-crossed by the governor, however, Republicans in the Senate have been in no rush to pass some lingering code bills—which are usually a formality. Without their passage, Democrat-favored programs, such as state-funded public legal defense and housing programs, will remain in limbo.

Shapiro institutes automatic registration

The governor announced recently that Pennsylvania has implemented automatic voter registration (AVR), a move that Shapiro’s office said will “promote election security and save taxpayers time and money.”

The commonwealth joined 23 other states with AVR, including New York, New Jersey and Delaware. When eligible residents go to the DMV to get a new or renewed license, they will automatically be taken through the voter registration application process, unless they opt out. 

“Whenever you have more information captured in a voter registration record… the more information that’s attached to that record, like a driver’s license number, the more easy it is to identify to make sure a voter doesn’t, for example, register more than once,” secretary of the commonwealth Al Schmidt said. “And if a voter moves from one county to another, [it is easier] to link that record to eliminate any opportunity for a voter to cast more than one vote.”

State officials expect the change to result in tens of thousands more voters in future elections.

Casey gets a challenger

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey announced earlier this year that he will seek a fourth term in 2024. Now, David McCormick, an Army veteran and former CEO of Bridgewater Associates—the largest hedge fund in the country—officially threw his hat into the ring as the Republican who will vie for Casey’s seat in the critical battleground state.

McCormick lost the Senate primary to GOP candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz last year. Oz went on to lose in the general to Democrat John Fetterman. In a recent speech announcing his candidacy, McCormick called a Casey a “rubber stamp” for President Joe Biden, whose policies he promised to push back on.

“When Joe Biden says ‘Jump,’ Bob Casey says ‘How high?’ When Joe Biden says ‘Vote,’ Bob Casey says ‘Which way?’ And when Joe Biden comes calling, Bob Casey comes running.”

Cartwright reintroduces Time Off to Vote Act

Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-08) has reintroduced the Time Off to Vote Act alongside fellow Democrat Rep. Nikema Williams of Georgia. If passed, the legislation would require employers to provide their workers at least two hours of paid leave on federal election days.

“Voting should not be a luxury that only the well-off can afford,” Cartwright said in a statement. “This bill reaffirms our commitment to making voting more accessible to all by ensuring that American workers do not have to choose between casting their ballots or receiving a full paycheck.”

A slate of good-government groups support the legislation, including the nonpartisan corruption watchdog Common Cause.

“All Americans deserve to have their voices heard and votes counted,” said Sylvia Albert, Common Cause’s director of voting and elections. “Especially as some states pass discriminatory voter suppression laws, the Time Off to Vote Act is needed more than ever.”

pennsylvania, harrisburg, legislature, house, cartwright, time off, to vote, bob casey, david mccormick, josh shapiro, automatic voter registration


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here