Seniority frequently has its perquisites, and nowhere is that more the case than in the state Legislature. Lawmakers who have been re-elected multiple times and whose party happens to hold the majority generally form the pool from which committee chairmanships are filled.
The new session of the Legislature finds several local faces among those who will head standing House and Senate committees, where much of the nuts-and-bolts work of state government is conducted.
Rep. Kathy Watson, R-144, who ran unopposed last year to secure her seventh term, reportedly had her pick of several chairmanships. The Children and Youth Committee was among them, and she jumped at the chance. That looks like a perfect fit. Her assignment to that committee, which among other things will deal with recommendations about improving child welfare in light of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, earned a seal of approval from both Bucks District Attorney David Heckler and a local House colleague, Rep. Bernie O’Neill, R-29. Heckler, the head of the Task Force on Child Protection, said he “couldn’t be happier that someone as tenacious, thoughtful and committed as Kathy Watson” will be at the forefront when the task force’s numerous recommendations are considered.
Rep. Kate Harper, R-61, is also beginning her seventh term and will chair the House Local Government Committee. Harper previously chaired the Children and Youth and Ethics committees.
Retaining chairmanships are longtime lawmakers Paul Clymer, R-145; Bob Godshall, R-53; and Gene DiGirolamo, R-18. Clymer, first elected in 1980, chairs Education; Godshall, first elected in 1982, chairs Consumer Affairs; and DiGirolamo, first elected in 1994, heads up Human Services.
On the Senate side, Stewart Greenleaf, R-12, first elected to the Senate in 1978, will continue as chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee. Chuck McIlhinney, R-10, first elected to the Senate in 2006 after four terms in the House, takes over as chairman of the Law and Justice Committee. Bob Mensch, R-24, who came to the Senate more recently via a special election in 2009, becomes chairman of the Aging and Youth Committee.
Good chairmen make for good committees, and good committees are invaluable when it comes to reviewing legislative proposals that might one day make life better and safer for all Pennsylvanians.
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