Thursday, November 30, 2006

House Divided



News is that Pennsylvania's 156th Legislative District was decided in favor of Barbara McIlvaine Smith(D), giving the Democrats a majority in the state house for the first time in a more than a decade. Yet it is still amazingly close. If this session really starts 102-101 then all sorts of things could happen. A decade ago both the state house and senate were about as evenly split as possible. Party switching by members is not unheard of. State Senator Frank Pecora, Mike Doyle's former boss, switched from Republican to Democrat and by himself altered the balance of power in the state senate. Before that Representative Tom Stish of Luzerne county switched from Republican to Democrat Democrat to Republican, which also single-handedly switched the balance of power in the state house. With 203 members lots can happen. Death or just illness could make the house evenly split at any moment. What if just one member is absent. Or as is becoming common, a legislator who is also a reservist gets called up. Cases like Senator Pippy who kept his office while away for a year (or in his case actually elected in absentia) may not be feasible since it could switch the balance of power. Even a member's extended visit to the water closet could result in parliamentary maneuvering. This could be very interesting to watch. The most important person in Harrisburg these days may be the house parliamentarian.

Even stranger things have happened elsewhere. In the mid 1990's Democrats appeared to have lost control of the California state house. Then Democratic speaker of the California House Willie Brown (later to be Mayor of SF) enticed two republicans to switch parties in exchange for them actually becoming speaker of the house. Quite an offer. Who knows what is being offered these days to potential party switchers either way.

Anyway, the map above is what the state house looks like from the general election just completed. Even here you do not really see the mythical "T".

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Make the map a population-based map like those used as of late in Time magazine, and the "T" will appear. Big empty light blue districts and Centre County do not count.

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