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Sen. Costa to serve as Senate minority leader

HARRISBURG — McKeesporters converged on Harrisburg for a celebration of Mayor James R. Brewster’s ascension to the state Senate.

Their host wasn’t able to join them for a catered lunch in a Senate committee meeting room Wednesday.

While a buffet was being served, Brewster and other Democrats were serving up support for Sen. Jay Costa Jr., D-Forest Hills, whose 43rd District borders on Brewster’s 45th and includes West Mifflin and the Steel Valley.

Costa was elevated from Appropriations Committee minority chairman to minority leader of the Senate in the 2011-12 General Assembly session.

“We’ve already had a three-hour session,” Brewster said as he arrived on the Senate floor to receive his oath from Magisterial District Judge Eugene F. Riazzi Jr. “It was an interesting and eventful exercise.”

“I hope to provide strong, aggressive and unified leadership as we work together to solve problems,” Costa said. He succeeded retiring Sen. Robert Mellow, D-Scranton, who led the Democratic caucus since 1989.

Costa will lead a 20-member caucus in a chamber where 30 Republicans are in the majority. The challenges for all 50 senators in the upcoming session include a state budget that may be short by $4 billion, as well as a variety of ongoing issues.

Costa sees a need to “take steps to develop and maintain jobs in Pennsylvania.” Also, he said, “It is important we continue to have the comprehensive conversation we have had about our educational priorities.”

Succeeding Costa as minority leader of the Appropriations committee is Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia. Hughes hailed his House counterpart, Rep. Joseph Markosek, D-Monroeville, who moved from the House Transportation Committee chairmanship.

“He’s a good guy and a hard worker,” Hughes said.

Markosek attended Brewster’s luncheon, as did various McKeesport area public officials, including Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg.

Also Wednesday, Sen. Michael A. O’Pake, D-Reading, was chosen minority whip; Sen. Anthony H. Williams, D-Philadelphia, is the new caucus chairman; and Sen. Christine Tartaglione, D-Philadelphia, the new caucus secretary.

Tartaglione’s determination could be measured by her personal determination to get out of a wheelchair she has needed for the past seven years.

“I walked on that Senate floor for 200 feet on Oct. 13,” she said.

Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Bethlehem, was named caucus administrator, while Sen. Richard Kasunic, D-Dunbar Township, was named Democratic policy chairman.

Republicans retained their 2009-10 leadership for the new General Assembly session to begin in January.

State Sen. Joseph Scarnati, D-Brockway, will return full-time to the role of president pro tempore. He also has been lieutenant governor since the death of Catherine Baker Knoll on Nov. 12, 2008.

Sen. Pat Browne, R-Allentown, will replace Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, as majority whip. Orie was re-elected Nov. 2 but had to give up her leadership post while charges of alleged misuse of her office move through Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester, continues as majority leader; Sen. Pat Browne, R-Allentown, as majority whip; Sen. Jake Corman, R-Bellefonte, as Senate Appropriations Committee chairman; Sen. Mike Waugh, R-Shrewsbury, as the GOP caucus chairman; and Sen. Bob Robbins, R-Greenville, as the majority caucus secretary.


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