Pa. lawmakers take oath in New Year’s Day session

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HARRISBURG – Newly elected members of the Pennsylvania Legislature took their oath of office Tuesday in a rare New Year’s Day gathering as the 2013-14 session opened.


The swearing-in ceremony was largely nonpartisan, in contrast to the debates and votes lawmakers will soon confront on tough issues including transportation funding, pension reforms and the state budget.


Hundreds of proud family members and friends dressed up for the occasion applauded, snapped pictures and watched the two-hour proceeding in the chambers or on TV monitors set up in the Capitol rotunda and other sites.


Freshman Rep. Hal English, R-Allegheny, who was accompanied by his wife and their two teenage sons, said everyone was excited.


“Once we get rid of the glitz and the glamour here, we’ll get down to work,” he said.


It was the first time in 22 years that the ceremony was held on the holiday. The state constitution specifies that it take place on the first Tuesday in January following the biennial legislative elections.


Judges administered the oath to 226 legislators the 25 senators who were up for election last year and 201 representatives. One House member was out sick, and another was sworn into the Senate, leaving a vacancy to be filled in a special election.


They included 33 freshmen, 22 Democrats and 11 Republicans in a legislature where the GOP controls both houses.


In turn, lawmakers elected Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati to a fourth two-year term and handed House Speaker Sam Smith a second term. The presiding officers are Republicans from Jefferson County.


The legislators also certified election returns confirming four-year terms for the state row officers. Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane, Auditor General-elect Eugene DePasquale and state Treasurer Rob McCord, who was re-elected, are scheduled to be sworn in on Jan. 15.


DePasquale, a Democratic representative from York who also was re-elected to his House seat in the Nov. 6 election, took his legislative oath Tuesday but plans to resign before he is sworn in as auditor general.


If Democrats retain the seats being vacated by DePasquale and freshman Sen. Matt Smith, D-Allegheny, the balance of power in the House will remain unchanged at 111 Republicans and 92 Democrats.


In the Senate, the GOP majority lost three seats in the election, shrinking the balance of power to 27 Republicans and 23 Democrats.


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