HARRISBURG -- While much of state government is closed today, Pennsylvania lawmakers are back in action for a rare New Year's Day session to take oaths of office.
The state House of Representatives and Senate swore in their members shortly after noon, kicking off a two-year session with a lengthy to-do list that includes pension reform and finding billions in new transportation funding.
Ten new Republicans and 19 new Democrats joined the state House of Representatives, which reconvened with a 111-91 majority for the GOP.
Among the new faces representing the Pittsburgh area is Democrat Ed Gainey of Lincoln-Lemington, who waited beforehand with family in his new office. As Mr. Gainey's 3-year-old son, Darius, bounced into the hall to see his grandfather, the new lawmaker reflected on the reasons his constituents had sent him to the capital.
"They sent me here to make sure our district is heard, to be a voice for our district," he said. "To make sure that we're fighting for things that make sense, not only in my district but statewide."
Other freshmen state representatives from western Pennsylvania include Democrat Pam Snyder, who replaced ex-Rep. Bill DeWeese on the ballot last summer when the imprisoned former lawmaker was deemed ineligible to run; and Erin Molchany, a Mount Washington Democrat.
Republican Hal English of Hampton will represent the North Hills district previously held by Randy Vulakovich, now in the state Senate.
There's already one vacancy in the state House, with Democratic state Sen. Matt Smith of Mt. Lebanon leaving his House post. Democratic Auditor General-elect Eugene DePasquale of York took his oath of office as a state representative again this morning but will resign when he is sworn into his new post in mid-January.
In the state Senate, the minority Democrats bolstered their numbers with three new lawmakers, bringing the party split in that chamber to 27-23. Republicans in that chamber have one freshman, Sen. Scott Hutchinson of Venango County.
Mr. Smith, a three-term state House Democrat and now freshman senator, carried out one of his first duties by joining two colleagues to walk back over to his former chamber and alert those lawmakers that the Senate was back to work.