Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Pennsylvania's General Assembly gaveled into session Tuesday and lawmakers are already looking ahead to the tough financial decisions they anticipate making this year. The House's first order of business was electing a new speaker. As expected, Keith McCall of Carbon County won the vote with the support of all 104 Democrats. McCall, who's served in the chamber since 1983, urged the House to take on major issues head-on this year saying “Some people wait for things to happen. Those who work in this chamber make things happen.” There was a lot of talk about bipartisanship and cooperation, but new Majority Leader Todd Eachus of Luzerne County jumped right into Democratic priorities, saying lawmakers need to increase Medicare access, lower prescription drug costs and tackle the impending expiration of utility rate caps. Minority Leader Sam Smith of Jefferson County delivered a less partisan speech, instead reflecting on the value of time and the Book of Ecclesiastes. The lawmakers will not return to Harrisburg for a working session for several weeks.