Thursday, January 04, 2007

Holy crap!! (Speaker circus edition)

For those of you who, like me, might have been away from local news over the last week, here's what I've been able to put together about one of the biggest surprises to come out of the state legislature in some time:

1) Perzel, as expected, was working the back room deals, and managed to find a Democrat in his last term (Caltagirone) willing to vote for Perzel for Speaker. That guy was also willing to advertise his intentions, giving the Democrats a heads-up that their takeover might be about to hit a brick wall.

2) In fact, two other Dems (Philadelphia locals Cruz and Youngblood, about whom you can expect to hear me say more in days ahead) planned to join the turncoat action, because of grudges that they had against Dem. leader DeWeese.

3) Democratic leaders approached Philadelphia-area Republican Dennis O'Brien, whom they considered a relatively fair and moderate member of the minority party, and made an agreement to back him as an alternative to either Perzel or DeWeese.

4) Somehow a number of "reform-minded Republicans" (presumably ready to see Perzel out aftr his bungling of the pay hike mess, among other things) were brought aboard, six in total, thus outnumbering the Dem turncoats and making the Dem-backed O'Brien the winner.

5) Details of the full deal are not clear, but O'Brien (a) doesn't intend to change parties and (b) intends to let the Democratic leadership handle the majority logistics, such as committee appointments, legislative agenda, and most other critical functions.

Obviously, only time will tell how this all plays out, but it's certainly an interesting twist. Given a staunchly Republican Senate, the House is probably well served by a cooperative bipartisan approach to the next few years, but I presume that the Democrats will have some new initiatives and/or partnerships with the Governor along the way... My favorite quote from coverage of this story was clearly this one:
Perzel, who had said that he would rather resign than serve in the minority, deftly deflected questions about his future soon after yesterday's vote.
Anyway, for more serious info, here's a profile of O'Brien, who is known as a champion of kids and a friend of unions as well as a law-and-order guy, and an Inky editorial applauding this choice as representing a bipartisan commitment to change in Harrisburg.


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