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After winter hiatus, Pa. House resumes voting today

Mar. 18—HARRISBURG — The new year is no longer new but today, and for the first time in 2024, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives will convene a voting session.

It's been more than three months since lawmakers in the lower chamber last cast a vote, a flurry of action in mid-December that included votes on code bills finalizing certain spending authorization for the current budget.

The Senate had three voting days in early January but the calendar was light due in part to the lack of legislation moving over from the House.

Before any bills are considered Monday it's expected that Democrat Jim Prokopiak will first be sworn into office. He won a special election in February to represent the 140th Legislative District located in Bucks County. His addition will bring the House to a 102-100 voting split favoring the Democratic majority.

Another vacancy in the 139th Legislative District in Wayne and Pike counties will be filled in a special election on April 23, the day of the primary election. The vacancy occurred with the resignation of Republican Joe Adams.

The House chamber saw an extended closure beyond the typical winter break.

A burst heating coil is blamed for water damage to the chamber ceiling. The leak was first discovered in December 2022 and caused substantial water leaks on the State Capitol's top floor and House chamber.

According to online updates from House Speaker Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia/Delaware, water pooled onto floors, leaked through walls and caused plaster to fall to the chamber floor from 40 feet above.

Work on the project was initiated on Jan. 8. Floor protection was installed and scaffolding erected across two weeks in mid- to late-January before damages were assessed a final time and repairs undertaken and completed.

Scaffolding was removed last week and the floor protections were removed this week, updates from McClinton show.

The project was estimated at $150,000. A spokesman with Department of General Services on Friday said the total came in at $148,360.

Repairs were put off beyond summer 2023 as the budget stalled and with McClinton prepared to call the lawmakers back to session to complete the process. A week was added to the session in December to accommodate an anticipated delay this winter. McClinton opted against remote voting or moving House voting to another location.

Work occurred in the Senate chamber, too, to replace lamps in the light fixtures, which is also completed, a Republican Caucus spokesperson confirmed.

Among the outstanding legislative issues is the stalemate over a constitutional amendment allowing survivors of sexual abuse to sue perpetrators and enablers beyond the statute of limitations. That stalemate involves amendment proposals for universal voter ID and greater regulatory authority for the Legislature.

Marijuana legalization is on the table.

There's also the matter of school vouchers Republicans will work to revive as budget talks play out, coupled in a fight over how to fund public education with the Commonwealth Court's ruling of unconstitutionality hanging overhead.

Gun safety measures, a minimum wage hike and the Fairness Act sent behind the force of the House Democratic majority to the Senate awaits potential action, as does a Senate bill backed by Republicans requiring armed school security that was passed on to the House.

Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect the correct voting split in the Pennsylvania House. That split was incorrectly reported in the original version published Friday, March 15, 2024.