Pennsylvania House of Representatives is the largest and oldest
statewide organization in the Commonwealth, public or private.
the First Legislative District in Erie to the 203rd District in
Philadelphia, each member serves approximately 59,000 constituents.
Shaping The Nation
- The House requires a constitutional majority of 102 votes from the 203-member
body for the passage of a bill.
- Approximately 3,000 bills are introduced during each two-year session.
- Members consider what is best for the constituents they represent. The House
of Representatives is rooted in the doctrine of democracy.
- Members of the Democratic party are seated on the left of the chamber, facing
the Speaker, and members of the Republican Party are seated on the right
-- a parliamentary grouping adopted from the early French National Assembly.
- Contemporary technology enables
House members to vote quickly. Two electronic voting tally boards were installed
in the House in 1961.
- Each member casts his or her vote by pressing one button on a small box
attached to each member's desk. The green button registers an "aye"
(yes) vote and the red button registers a "nay" (no) vote. A green or
red light appears, respectively, next to each member's name on the electronic
voting board to signify how he or she voted.
- A member's vote is
visible to all other members, as well as to any visitors in the gallery. Every
word, vote and action on the House floor is recorded in the House Journal and is
available to the public for inspection.
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The Pennsylvania House first met as the Provincial Assembly on Dec. 4, 1682,
at Upland, near Chester, 40 days after William Penn arrived in the colony.
After three years, the Provincial Assembly initiated greater independence
from the colonial authorities. It insisted upon the right to control its own
affairs, qualify members and initiate legislation. The Provincial Assembly
became the foundation upon which organized representative government in
America was built.
ratification of the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1790 created the
Pennsylvania House of Representatives as it operates today. Its first
session was held in 1791.
its opening session, the Provincial Assembly appointed the first Speaker.
The office of the Speaker is the oldest elected statewide position in
Pennsylvania. The Speaker literally “speaks for the people” and is
beholden to no executive authority but the law.
The Speaker serves all members and
upholds the orderly conduct of business, protecting the parliamentary rights
of every elected Representative.
The speakership is a
constitutionally mandated office, elected by the full membership. The House
cannot convene without a Speaker.
The Speaker presides over the session, appoints committee chairpersons and
refers bills to committee. The Speaker can sponsor legislation himself, vote
on all bills, and on rare occasions may turn the podium over to a Speaker
Pro Tempore in order to occupy his desk on the floor and participate in
autonomy of the Pennsylvania House was fashioned after that of the British
Parliament and served as the model for American legislative and
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Shaping The Nation
The Pennsylvania House has participated in several significant events
throughout the history of Pennsylvania and the United States, particularly
during the founding of the nation.
- The Pennsylvania House initiated plans and supported the construction of
one of the most important buildings in the county’s history.
- In addition, it hosted the meetings and conferences during which two
principal documents, the Declaration
of Independence and the United
States Constitution, were written.
- The Senate of Pennsylvania was
founded by the House as a co-legislative body, and the House drafted the
Bill of Rights for the Commonwealth which later served as a model for the
United States Bill of Rights.
- The Pennsylvania House built the nation's first frontier road and 175
years later, the first modern turnpike. In addition, the House initiated the
nation's first public school system, state mental hospitals, the nation's
first Supreme Court and the country's first matching grant program for
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Many men who have played significant parts in the role of the development of
the country and the Commonwealth have served as Speaker of the Pennsylvania
House of Representatives.
(1729-1732 and 1734-1738)
Was a leading Philadelphia attorney who helped design
and personally financed the construction of Independence Hall. As Speaker,
Hamilton hired young Benjamin Franklin as chief clerk of the Assembly.
Hamilton was among the founders of Lancaster, Pa., and he was Speaker in
1729, when Lancaster became the Commonwealth’s fourth county.
A printer and editor who turned to politics, is the
Commonwealth’s most famous Speaker. Following his service to the
Commonwealth, he went on to be a member of the Continental Congress and
president of the Constitutional Convention of 1776.
Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg
Served in the Pennsylvania and Virginia House of
Representatives and in the first and third sessions of the U.S. Congress. He
was an unsuccessful candidate for governor in the 1793 and 1796 elections.
Was the first Speaker later elected governor of
Pennsylvania, where he served for three terms – from 1790 to 1799. Mifflin
was appointed by Gen. George Washington as his aide-de-camp and later as
quartermaster general of the Continental Army, brigadier general and
finally, a major general.
K. Leroy Irvis
(1977-1978 and 1983-1988)
Was the first Speaker of
African-American heritage in the United States. During his three decades of
public service, he sponsored more than 875 bills, and a record 264 became
law. Irvis has been honored with the naming of an office building in the
Matthew J. Ryan
(1981-82 and 1995-2003)
An attorney, served in
the House for 40 consecutive years, the second-longest tenure of any member
of the Pennsylvania House. His 32 years as an elected legislative leader is
unequalled in the history of the Republican Party. He died in office in
2003, and was the first person in the history of the present Capitol
Building to lie in state in the Capitol’s rotunda. A building in the
Capitol Complex is named in honor of him.