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January 4, 2011 | By | Posted in Legislature

State House Elects Sam Smith as Speaker

Applauds years of service as caucus leaders draft outlines for new session

After 23 years of serving in the state House of Representatives, Rep. Samuel H. Smith (R – Jefferson) was unanimously elected Speaker of the House Tuesday.

Mr. Smith was first nominated by state Rep. Brian Ellis (R – Butler), and the nomination was seconded by state Rep. Mauree Gingrich (R – Lebanon), state Rep. Jim Marshall (R – Beaver) and state Rep. Thomas Killion (R – Delaware).

House Republicans first held caucus elections on Nov. 9, a week after the state elections which switched control of the House back into Republican hands. While the election of Mr. Smith to Speaker of the House was largely ceremonial, it set the tone for the 2011-2012 legislative session.

Citing Mr. Smith’s history of championing the Education Improvement Tax Credit and support for Growing Greener, Mr. Ellis waxed poetic on the traits he expected Mr. Smith to bring to the position of Speaker of the House.

“The past six years I’ve watched member after member ask [Sam] questions,” said Mr. Ellis. “Always honest, always sincere, Sam would never tell you what to do but he would never let you make a mistake. Instead he will challenge you to see the circumstance from all sides.”

Mr. Killion also pointed to the traits he expected Mr. Smith to call on as Speaker of the House.

“He understands the commonwealth’s diversity and its people,” said Mr. Killion. “I firmly believe Sam Smith is the right person at the right time. Today is a good day for Sam…but it is a great day for us and our commonwealth.”

The representative also pointed to “bipartisanship,” a potentially symbolic gesture as the Republicans now control the House 112-90. The House consists of 203 members, but Democrat Robert Donatucci passed away on Nov. 9, leaving a vacancy.

After accepting the gavel from his father and former state representative Eugene Smith, Sam Smith said the House must work together as a body, referencing a Biblical letter from Paul to the Corinthians and warned against moving to the extreme tyrannical end of “rulers law,” cautioning the House to function under the “people’s law.”

“Fourteen percent of our body is sitting here for the first time,” said Mr. Smith. “The advice is I give is don’t read your own news releases and be mindful of why you wanted to be here and why the voters elected you. We’re not just a body of Republicans and Democrats; we’re a reflection of 12 and a half million Pennsylvanians.”

Twenty-nine new Republican representatives were sworn into office Tuesday, along with the eight new Democrat representatives. Welcoming the new representatives, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R – Allegheny) spoke of a “clean slate” and being “fiscal stewards.”

“We’re going to have to do more with less and we’re going to have to recognize we’ve got to be more like the folks back home,” said Mr. Turzai. “They’re the ones who are paying the taxes and we are fiscal stewards of their hard-earned money. We don’t get to spend it on festivals anymore.”

The new House Republican leadership is: Mr. Turzai, Majority Leader; Sandra Major, Majority Caucus Chair; Stan Saylor, Majority Whip; Mike Vereb, caucus secretary; Dave Reed, policy chairman; Dick Stevenson, caucus administrator; and William Adolph, Majority Chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

State Rep. Frank Dermody (D – Allegheny), the Minority Leader, echoed Mr. Turzai’s desire to create jobs but also focused on not leaving people behind and highlighted the problems created by the loss of the federal stimulus dollars.

“Our workers, our families and our children are our top priority,” said Mr. Dermody. “The challenge for all of us will be finding ways to balance the state budget while keeping in place essential services for those who desperately need them… If we work together as one House we can make sure that when that history is written, it will show we did our duty and move the state forward to a better place.”

The new Democrat House leadership is: Dan Frankel, Minority Caucus Chair; Mr. Dermody, Minority Caucus Leader; Michael Hanna, Caucus Whip; Jennifer Mann, caucus secretary; Michael Sturla, policy chairman; Ron Buxton, caucus administrator; and Joseph Markosek, Minority Chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

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Darwyyn Deyo is a reporter for PA Independent. She can be reached at darwyyn@paindependent.com.

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