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Pennsylvania House back to 101-101 partisan divide after Democratic lawmaker resigns

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The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is back to a 101-101 partisan split with the resignation of a Democratic lawmaker Thursday, teeing up another special election to determine the chamber's majority early next year.

The resignation of Rep. John Galloway, of Bucks County, had been expected for months after his election as a magisterial district judge in November. But it was made official after the chamber concluded its final business of the year late Wednesday, wrapping up a monthslong budget feud.

A special election will be held Feb. 13. In the interim, Democrats who control chamber has scheduled no voting days for January and February while it is slated to be deadlocked.

If Republicans win the special election, it would grease the skids for GOP priorities to make it to Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro's desk, or go out to the voters through constitutional amendments.

But Democrats have sought to defend their razor-thin majority since last year's election, when they flipped enough seats to take the speaker's rostrum for the first time in more than a decade. In the period of about a year, voters have cast ballots in three special elections determining party control.

In those elections, Republican efforts to clinch seats in Democratic strongholds fell short.

Republicans had long controlled Bucks County, a heavily populated county just north of Philadelphia. But the county has shifted left in recent years, helping Democrats win control of the county and many of its legislative seats.

Galloway ran unopposed in 2022. He was reelected in 2020 with 60% of the vote in a district that leans Democratic.

With the slim margin, Democrats have advanced a number of the party's priorities — more funding for public education, broadened LGBTQ+ rights and stricter gun laws — but still have had to contend with the GOP-controlled Senate.

Tensions between the chambers had embroiled the Legislature in a five-month stalemate over the budget, after negotiations soured between the Senate and Shapiro, who could not get the House to pass a school voucher program, a priority for GOP lawmakers. For months, funding for a number of programs was locked in the Legislature.

Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Kerwin, a Republican from Dauphin County, will be on extended leave while he is deployed to East Africa in the Army National Guard. It will leave the Republican Party at 101 lawmakers, but he will not cast votes while deployed.

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