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What Pa. Dems taking House means for abortion, voting rights

Democrats win control of Pennsylvania state House
Democrats win control of Pennsylvania state House 00:20

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) -- Democrats have regained control of the Pennsylvania state House for the first time in 12 years, after Montgomery County Rep. Todd Stephens conceded his race to Democrat Melissa Cerrato on Thursday. 

The concession gives Democrats 102 seats in the House -- a slim majority of the chamber's 203 seats. And with Democrats in control, a few of the GOP's constitutional amendments on abortion access, voting rights and combatting climate change won't make it to the ballot.

Republicans needed to vote one more time next session, in both chambers, to allow Pennsylvania voters to vote on that package of amendments to the state's constitution.

The amendments would have stipulated, among other things, that abortion is not a constitutional right; that citizens would have had to be 21 rather than 18 to vote; and that the governor couldn't use some administrative powers to fight climate change.

"So when we flipped the House, we stopped these constitutional amendments in their tracks," said Rep. Leanne Krueger (D-Delaware County), who chairs the House Democrats' campaign committee.

Republicans maintain control of the Senate.

Earlier Thursday, House Republicans had not yet conceded defeat in the battle for their chamber, and a spokeswoman for incoming Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland County) said Ward wasn't yet ready to comment on the prospect of sharing power with a Democrat-controlled House.

With Democrats taking control of the House, governor-elect Josh Shapiro would have something his Democratic predecessor, outgoing Gov. Tom Wolf, never had: political allies leading one chamber of Pennsylvania's General Assembly. But Shapiro expressed optimism too about being able to work with Senate Republicans.

"I'm confident I can work with President Pro Tem Ward and the other leaders in the Senate, as well as in the House, to get meaningful things done," Shapiro said Wednesday.

In addition to the derailment of the GOP-backed constitutional amendments, Krueger said she hopes Democratic control of the House -- even with the House's power checked by the Senate -- could lead to legislative changes.

Among them: allowing counties to begin pre-canvassing mail-in ballots prior to the morning of elections. That proposal itself is uncontroversial and backed by election officials from both parties, but House Republicans insisted on bundling it with other electoral changes -- such as photo ID requirements and new regulations for mail-in ballot drop boxes -- opposed by Democrats.

Krueger named school funding as another Democratic priority that could be addressed. Democrats have long complained generally about school funding levels -- and specifically about a decades-old formula they say funds rural school districts, which Republicans tend to represent, at significantly higher per-pupil levels than urban districts.

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