Pennsylvania legislative leader Costa blasts suggestion of session before Wolf sworn in as governor
HARRISBURG — A suggestion by incoming Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman that Republicans might consider a session to ram through bills before Democratic Gov.-elect Tom Wolf takes office is “inappropriate, unprecedented and inexcusable,” the chamber’s top Democrat said Friday.
The House and Senate return to session Jan. 6 when new members are sworn in. The GOP has large majorities in both chambers.
Corman, R-Centre County, said during a taping of “Face the State” on WHP-TV in Harrisburg that he has not ruled out holding a session during Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s final weeks in office.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said that would be “an act of desperation and serious blow to reform.”
Corbett believes Costa and the Democrats are making “political theater,” spokeswoman Lynn Lawson said.
She said Corbett has not talked with legislative leaders about a special session, though leaders could meet before Wolf’s Jan. 20 inauguration without the governor’s urging.
“He is certainly ready, willing and able to continue the work at hand,” Lawson said.
Senate Republicans for years have avoided lame-duck sessions. Technically, this would not be the same. The chambers would not be allowing defeated or retiring members to vote after the election. New members elected in November would have been sworn in.
Wolf’s “priority is to move Pennsylvania forward,” said spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan. “He looks forward to working with legislative leaders from both parties … to tackle the difficult decisions needed to solve our state’s financial crisis.”
“Lobbyists are talking about it; reporters are talking about it,” said Stephen Miskin, a House Republican spokesman. “I have not heard a single legislator talk about it.”
GOP lawmakers left unresolved Corbett’s top issues: pension reform and state liquor store divestiture.
During his campaign, Wolf said the state’s public employee pension problems are not a crisis and that he favors modernizing, not eliminating, the state stores.
“Why would anyone think they could do it now, when they’ve been unable to do it the last four years?” asked Moe Coleman, director emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics.
Liquor sales and pensions are complicated issues. Diverse constituencies support and oppose selling the state stores.
J. Wesley Leckrone, a political science professor at Widener University, agreed it’s unlikely lawmakers could solve “intractable issues” in a few days.
Leckrone said it may be an effort by some Republicans to set the stage for negotiations with Wolf — sending a message that Corbett lost the election but they beefed up their majority control.
“It could be the beginning of legislative posturing,” Leckrone said.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media’s state Capitol reporter. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 or [email protected].