By Peter N. Calcara, vice president, government relations
The 203rd Pennsylvania General Assembly—one of the oldest state legislative bodies in the nation—convened on New Year’s Day to kick off the 2019-2020 legislative session. Swearing-in day is filled with much ceremony, and both chambers of the House and Senate are packed with family members, friends, and guests to observe the oaths of office. The new session also brings a sense of renewed optimism for bipartisanship and moving the Commonwealth forward.
I had the honor and privilege of attending this year’s swearing-in ceremony with a front row seat (I was seated to the right of the Speaker’s rostrum in the well of the House). This was my 17th swearing-in ceremony, but the first time that I was on the floor of either the House or Senate. My invitation stemmed from the CPA-PAC’s (PICPA’s political arm) support for the Legislative Swearing-In Committee, a bipartisan effort to offset the customary costs associated with the swearing in.
Two hundred of the 203 members of the state House and 25 of the 50 state senators took their oaths of office. This is one of the largest, most diverse freshmen classes in recent memory. Of the 43 new members of the House, 24 are Democrats and 19 are Republicans; of the seven new senators, five are Democrats and two are Republicans. Pennsylvania is following the national trend of more women getting elected to public office. There are now 51 women in the state House and 12 in the Senate.
Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) was unanimously elected Speaker of the House. This is Turzai’s third term as Speaker.
In the Senate, Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) was again sworn in as President Pro Tempore. This is the 13th time Scarnati’s colleagues have elected him to serve as President Pro Tempore, the third-highest constitutional office in the Commonwealth.
PICPA members Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), Rep. Keith Greiner (R-Lancaster), and Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon) were sworn into office. In addition, three other members with accounting backgrounds took the oath of office—Reps. Mike Peifer (R-Pike), George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland), and freshman Ben Sanchez (D-Montgomery).
The first order of business is getting legislative committees up and running with the appointment of the respective chairs. Positive news for the PICPA, Peifer has been appointed the new chair of the House Finance Committee. Peifer graduated from Rider in 1990 with a degree in accounting. He pursued his accounting career with Price Waterhouse, qualifying as a CPA in 1991 and rising to the level of senior tax consultant. In 1995 he opened his own accounting and tax firm, Michael T. Peifer CPA, until being elected in 2006.
Once committees are in place (Senate committee assignments had not been made as of this writing) the review and processing of legislation can begin.
Then, on Feb. 5, 2019, Gov. Tom Wolf will give his budget address and we’ll get to see our renewed optimism for bipartisanship tested.