Local lawmakers take oath of office
LEFT: Sen. John Yudichak stands with his four daughters, from left, Sarah, Evelyn, Anna and Grace, after being sworn in to another term in office.
ABOVE: Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon, takes the oath of office in Harrisburg on Tuesday to begin his fifth term representing the 122nd District.
Rep. Zach Mako, R-Lehigh/Washington, is sworn in for his second term. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Local lawmakers, along with officials from throughout the state, took the oath of office Tuesday, convening in the state Capitol on New Year’s Day under a state constitutional mandate that they meet on the first Tuesday of the year.
State Sen. John Yudichak, D – Luzerne/Carbon, has represented the 14th District since 2011. Before that he served as a state representative for the 119th district.
“With my four beautiful daughters at my side, it is a deeply humbling experience to take the oath of office for a third time in the Pennsylvania State Senate,” Yudichak said after the ceremony Tuesday.
“Over my two decades in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, I have accepted the oath of office as a solemn contract with the people of Pennsylvania and a clarion call to serve Carbon and Luzerne counties to the very best of my abilities. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve the people of the 14th Senate District.”
State Rep Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon, was sworn in for his fifth term representing the 122nd District.
“It’s very humbling to have the support of the residents,” Heffley said Wednesday morning.
“It’s an exciting time to be pushing agenda items such as property tax reform and holding PennDOT’s feet to the fire on projects in Carbon County.”
Other items will include the fight against the opioid epidemic, grants for law enforcement, helping local independent pharmacies and contractors.
Rep. Zach Mako, R-Lehigh/Washington, is entering his second term representing the residents of the 183rd Legislative District, which includes Slatington, Walnutport and Washington Township.
“It is an honor to have been selected for this role in only my second term,” Mako said in December when he was appointed one of 10 deputy policy chairmen for the 2019-20 legislative session.
Other local officials to take the oath of office included Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-Schuylkill, representing District 124; Rep. Neal P. Goodman, D-Schuylkill, 123rd District; Sen. David G. Argall, R-Schuylkill/Berks, 29th District; Rep. Jack Rader, R-Monroe, for his second term representing the 176th district; Rep. Rosemary M. Brown, R-Monroe, 189th District; Sen. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe/Northampton, 40th District; Rep. Maureen Madden, D-Monroe, 115th District; Sen. Lisa M. Boscola, D-Northampton, 18th District; and Sen. Patrick Browne, R-Lehigh, 16th District.
Forty-two House members and seven senators were sworn in for the first time after winning elections in November.
Both chambers have smaller but still substantial Republican majorities compared to last session, 110 to 93 in the House and 29 to 21 in the Senate.
There are two vacancies among the 93 House Democratic seats, and a Republican senator is expected to step down and be sworn in to Congress later this week.
The 43rd House freshman, Rep.-elect Liz Hanbidge, D-Montgomery, will likely be sworn in later this month, after she returns from her honeymoon.
The biggest change in leadership is in the House, where Rep. Bryan Cutler took over as majority leader, replacing Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana, who did not seek re-election to the Legislature.
Cutler urged members to “learn one another’s life stories in a personal and meaningful way,” recounting details of his own background in Lancaster County.
The House voted 142-58 to approve rule changes that include having the Ethics Committee investigate sexual harassment allegations, to cut from 24 hours to 12 hours the time that must pass before a final vote on an amended bill and to allow people who are not legislators or religious leaders to give the House’s opening prayer.
The House also set up a new panel called the House Government Oversight Committee, made up of five majority-party members and four from the minority. It will have subpoena power and authority to take up matters on referral from the speaker or either floor leader.
Allegheny County Republican Rep. Mike Turzai was re-elected to retain the gavel as speaker, as was Republican Sen. Joe Scarnati of Jefferson County as his chamber’s president pro tempore.
Scarnati urged his colleagues to treat one another with civility and “come together to find a compromise, to get results, because it’s results that we’re judged by at the end of the day.”
The Senate will have a new presiding officer once Braddock Mayor John Fetterman becomes lieutenant governor later this month.
Senate rule changes addressed proper attire for members and staff, phone use in the chamber and access to amendments.
Fetterman beat incumbent Lt. Gov. Mike Stack in last year’s Democratic primary and was elected along with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who won a second term.
In the Senate, Scarnati ended weeks of uncertainty on Friday by announcing he supported the seating of Democrat Lindsey Williams in an Allegheny County district. Republicans had raised questions about whether Williams had lived in the state for four years to the day before being elected, a state constitutional requirement. She was sworn in.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.