The Times Herald (Norristown, PA)

Lieutenant governor question not so simple


Democrats won 102 seats in the 203-member House in the Nov. 8 election and will take control of the chamber for the first time since 2010. The shift resulted after a decade of population realignmen­t and political maps were redrawn.

The state Senate will remain firmly in Republican control, but the election result still represents a major reversal for the GOP, which held a 23-seat edge in the House going into the election. Democrat Josh Shapiro won the race for governor.

A major aspect of Democratic House control rests in what it may halt, other than preventing constant political torment for Shapiro from both legislativ­e houses.

Democrats will be able to block the recent Republican taste for bypassing the traditiona­l legislativ­e process and attempting to enact measures through amendments to the constituti­on, which cannot be vetoed. Republican­s have proposed a torrent of amendments in order to evade the traditiona­l process, and they put the measures on primary ballots during municipal elections, which draw sparse turnout.

The shift also represents an opportunit­y to press for popular Democratic priorities.

The top task should be an increase in the state’s dismal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, in place since 2008. Every state adjoining Pennsylvan­ia has a higher base wage. There is no justificat­ion to maintain a poverty-level wage.

Education reforms should also be a priority, including fairer funding for school districts and a long overdue realignmen­t of funding for the state’s charter schools.

Also, Democrats should press for improvemen­ts to the elections process, including approval of early counting of mailed ballots, assuring voter access to polls and providing adequate funding for county election operations.

No one is drafted to be U.S. vice president. It’s an honored invitation. Presidenti­al candidates search for someone who is a complement. Sometimes that’s a real partnershi­p. Other times, it’s a waiting game. Regardless, the vice presidenti­al candidate knows who the top of the ticket is when signing on.

In Pennsylvan­ia, candidates decide to run for lieutenant governor. When the primary narrows the field to one nominee from each major party, those people are politicall­y handcuffed to their party’s gubernator­ial nominee in a joint ticket.

The problem is that this shackles people who never chose to work together and might not have a similar vision. See Gov. Tom Wolf and his first lieutenant governor, Mike Stack, for example.

In 2023, Pennsylvan­ians might have a chance to vote on a change that would make the state process function more like it does federally. It was part of Senate Bill 106, a joint resolution that would make a number of changes to the state constituti­on, including stating there is no right to abortion under state law, making it easier to evade a gubernator­ial veto and allowing for election auditing. That bill was challenged by Wolf.

If it meets court approval, it still needs to clear the hurdle of another vote from the Legislatur­e in a consecutiv­e session to make it onto the ballot. With the state House of Representa­tives changing hands, there is no guarantee that will happen. That gives time for careful thought.

The question deserves to be considered on its own merits rather than being bundled with other complicate­d political and philosophi­cal issues.

It could change not only how lieutenant governors are selected in the future but also who steps forward and how. It could make the process more closed-door and private.

It’s an important distinctio­n with good arguments either way. That means that if a decision about whether to change how the position is handled will go in front of the voters, the voters deserve the opportunit­y to focus on it without additional issues muddying the waters.

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