After a historic election that saw them gain a supermajority, PA Senate Republicans are apparently attempting to increase their majorities in crucial legislative committees.
Sources familiar with ongoing negotiations between Senate leaders in both parties told City&State that Republican Majority Leader Jake Corman may be looking to erode Democratic representation in all Senate standing committees, citing precedent.
Corman declined to comment.
A staffer for Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said no final decisions would be made until the Senate reconvenes on Jan. 23, but acknowledged the majority party had recently explored expanding its hold on the chamber’s committees.
“At this time, committees are still being discussed and no official decision has been made,” said Katie Eckhart, Scarnati’s assistant director for legislative affairs. “In the past, committee structure has been based on precedent. Last session, we went back and looked at the number of committee members, and saw that it was based on [party] representation in the Senate.”
Other Senate staffers referred to Senate Rule 14(1), which states that “the composition of each Standing Committee shall reasonably reflect the caucus composition of the Senate membership.”
The Senate president is empowered to determine the party composition of 22 standing committees, which cover topics from transportation to economic development.
Committee members debate whether to advance newly introduced legislation. Some include as many as 23 legislators, although the vast majority number between 10 to 13, with Scarnati serving as an ex officio voting member on all committees, with some exceptions.
The proposed changes, if realized, would represent a mostly academic consolidation of the sweeping GOP majority in the state Senate, where Democrats hold just 16 of 50 seats, or 32 percent. Republicans already hold an 6-4 or 8-5 majority over Democrats in most Senate committees. For a 13-member committee, this could mean swapping out a Democratic senator in favor of a Republican, according to Senate Rule 14(1) or adding Republican member.
A spokesperson for the state Democratic Party did not respond to a request for comment by press time.