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First woman speaker of Pennsylvania House praises colleagues, says compromise with Senate is in future

One-on-one with Pennsylvania House Speaker Joanna McClinton
One-on-one with Pennsylvania House Speaker Joanna McClinton 03:04

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) -- Six months ago, the Pennsylvania State House elected its first woman speaker as Democrats took control of the House in Harrisburg.

Joanna McClinton has had a meteoric rise in politics. First elected in 2015, the former Philadelphia public defender quickly became her party's caucus leader, then minority leader of the state House and now the first woman speaker.

"The biggest thing it means for me is that it will mean many women -- although it took just about 250 years for a woman to have this opportunity -- it means that there will be many women to succeed me," she said.  

While House Speaker Joanna McClinton appreciates the significance of having a woman speaker, when she met with KDKA-TV's Jon Delano, she was more focused on touting the accomplishments of her Democratic-controlled House.

"We were able to change the structure for property tax rebates. We had seniors right here even in Allegheny County that if they got a little bit more in their Social Security or their pension, they were no longer able to get their rebate," she said.  

McClinton says 43,000 more seniors in this region will now get tax rebates, and she's proud of their education funding.

"Our school funding that we did in this budget just a few months ago, it's the largest investment that we've seen in public education, including free breakfast, which of course, is so necessary to so many regardless of their income status, so I'm proud of that," she said.

But with a Democratic-controlled House and a Republican-controlled Senate, there is great potential for gridlock. McClinton says she and Senate President Kim Ward have worked together even when they disagree.

Delano: "Do you feel you have a good working relationship with Republicans?"

McClinton: "Absolutely. We have sent over 150 bills. Those bills are on improving the lives of Pennsylvanians, and we recognize that in short order, a Senate committee has to take its time reviewing those bills, seeing if they want to make changes and send them back over to us."

McClinton predicts, for example, action on raising the minimum wage this fall.

"It is far overdue, and, quite frankly, it's embarrassing," she said. "So while our bill gets to $15 an hour over four years, we are ready to compromise. We look forward to the Senate sending that bill back with the number that they have consensus on in their caucus."

Speaker McClinton says there's plenty of time for the Senate and House to compromise on this and many other issues. Whether her party and she maintain control of the House depends on a special state House election next Tuesday in Shaler, Etna, Millvale, Reserve and parts of Pittsburgh.

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