With New Majority, Pennsylvania House Democrats Prioritize Abortion and Stopping Voter ID

Pennsylvania Democrats in the House of Representatives are seizing their new majority in the state House of Representatives — secured this week with three special-election victories — to advance abortion and lose voting security. 

Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Sharif Street, who represents part of Philadelphia in the state Senate, issued a statement congratulating Joe McAndrew, Abigail Salisbury, and Matt Gergely, all of whom won Allegheny County-based House seats. The chair said he looks forward to the work he believes House leadership wants to do to keep abortion widely available and ensure Pennsylvanians need not submit identification to vote at the polls. 

“These victories will ensure our Democratic majority in the Pennsylvania State House is safe and enable us to continue to protect a woman’s right to choose, ensure the right to vote, and create a Pennsylvania with opportunities for all,” Street said. 

Last session, Republicans attempted to amend the state Constitution to clarify that it does not protect abortion rights. That measure passed both chambers, but it would need to do so again and get approved by a majority of voters, in order to become law. The Democrats’ capture of the House sinks that possibility.

That same legislation contained an amendment that would have required voters to present a driver’s license or another official photographic document to vote at their polling location. That effort is similarly halted for at least the next two years. 

Regarding abortion, Democrats in both legislative chambers have introduced legislation that would codify the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which a majority of justices overturned last year. 

Another major element of progressive policymaking the Democrats say they want to undertake is a restructuring of the Keystone State’s public-school funding formula. The Republican-controlled Commonwealth Court on Tuesday ruled that excessive disparities exist between funding available to high-wealth school districts and that available to low-wealth ones. But Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer (R) declined to spell out a precise remedy, leaving that to lawmakers. 

“This week’s court ruling finally addresses the facts – kids in poorer school districts were getting left behind,” the House Democratic Caucus said in a Twitter post on Wednesday. “Kids in every district deserve the same chance to succeed as kids anywhere else do – and now we can make it happen.”

House Republicans panned the ruling as a judicial overreach, but some conservative advocates said a new funding formula could be welcome so long as it makes room for greater room for school choice. 

“The only way to ensure that ‘every student receives a meaningful opportunity’ is for education funding to follow the child,” Commonwealth Foundation Senior Vice President Nathan Benefield said in a statement. “Students that are trapped in their zip-code assigned school — especially in low-income and minority communities — often have no alternatives when their academic or social needs are unmet. Only by giving every student direct access to funding for an excellent education of their choice can we meet the court’s new requirements.”

Other items on the Democrats’ agenda include strengthening unions’ already strong hold on state labor policy, restricting gun ownership, protecting LGBT-oriented entertainment from regulation and relieving low-income constituents’ medical debt. 

It remains to be seen who will lead the House as Democrats pursue their plans. State Representative Mark Rozzi (D-Temple) has served as House speaker during the legislative session. Several Republicans struck a deal to elect him to the position in exchange, they say, for his disaffiliation from the Democratic Party and its House caucus. Rozzi did not do so, and Republicans have called him disingenuous and obstructionist. 

But Philadelphia-based Representative Joanna McClinton held the position of minority leader last term. When Democrats learned last autumn that they would soon take the majority, many expected her to gain the speakership. At this writing, McClinton isn’t saying whether she would attempt to oust Rozzi from the post, but she appeared to be leaving the possibility open. 

“If my colleagues believe I could play an important role in moving the commonwealth forward, then I’d accept the challenge!” she tweeted Wednesday. “But right now, @PaHouseDems are just excited to get back to Harrisburg so we can start passing good-government legislation!”

Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro will have an easier time racking up legislative victories with a lower chamber controlled by his party, but his party’s power will remain checked by a Senate in which Republicans enjoy a 28-22 majority.

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].



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One Thought to “With New Majority, Pennsylvania House Democrats Prioritize Abortion and Stopping Voter ID”

  1. Alan Fenstermacher

    Should be a 3rd world state in no time with these pieces of excrement. Pa voters who vote for these assholes take stupid to a whole new level. I thought it was bad when fedderfuck got in