HARRISBURG, PA — Former Wayne County Commissioner Joe Adams (R, PA-139) was sworn into his first term in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives earlier this month. He joined the chamber …
HARRISBURG, PA — Former Wayne County Commissioner Joe Adams (R, PA-139) was sworn into his first term in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives earlier this month. He joined the chamber during a time of confusion and impactful shifts in party power.
“At this point, we’re sort of a divided House with a very close margin of Republicans and Democrats, and that can be good or that can be bad,” Adams said. “This hasn’t been like this dating all the way back to 2008… it’s new territory for a lot of people.”
Though currently still in the minority right now, Democrats are projected to take control of the House after a few special elections on February 7. Even then, the Democrats’ majority walks a razor’s edge, and Adams is hopeful that in his first year in office he and his colleagues will work together to create progress through bipartisanship.
“What really needs to happen is both sides of the aisle have to figure out that we need to govern,” Adams said. “I think a spirit of cooperation is something we’re all looking forward to, and quite honestly, I believe the general public have expectations that people need to put aside certain differences and accomplish what’s best for the state of Pennsylvania.”
With some more balanced districts thanks to recently redrawn maps, PA Democratic candidates performed well in the 2022 midterms, winning 102 House seats over Republicans’ 101. However, two Democrats have since resigned and one passed away.
Rep. Austin Davis resigned so that he could begin his term as lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. Rep. Summer Lee—the first Black woman in the PA House—resigned to begin her new position in the U.S. House. Rep. Tony Deluca died between last year’s primary and the general elections.
Democrats are expected to fill these three vacancies in February, but on January 3, when it came time to elect a House Speaker, they had only 99 representatives, two less than the Republicans.
As a result of the vacancies, Dems failed to carry out their plan of electing to the speakership Philadelphia’s Joanna McClinton—who would have been the first woman Speaker of the state House. And instead, Republican Jim Gregory nominated Mark Rozzi, a moderate Democrat who has vowed to change his party affiliation to Independent and therefore caucus with neither party.
It’s anybody’s guess how it will all shake out by next month—whether or not Rozzi will stay on as Speaker, or if he will bow out in favor of McClinton once the Democrats reclaim their majority.
Republican leadership attempted to halt the special elections slated for February 7; however, the Commonwealth Court of PA recently rejected the challenge.
“Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court today decided to ignore basic math and prior law in ordering all three of these elections be held together on February 7,” House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler said in a statement. “Instead of resolving a dispute where the answer was self-evident based on the numbers, the court took the path of least resistance and thereby weakened the foundations of our republic and faith in the rule of law.”
As Adams steps into the shoes of his predecessor and friend from childhood, Rep. Mike Peifer—“We used to play catch together; I was 10 and he was five,”—Adams said that he’s tried to keep as much the same as possible.
“I kept the local district office the same. It’s still down on Route 6 in Hawley… and [I have] kept the same staff,” Adams said. “We wanted to keep it as simple as possible for the constituents… we didn’t need to spend any more money retrofitting someplace else… and we have well experienced, caring people in the office who are staying here; that’s good news for the constituents and, quite honestly, good news for me too.”
Referencing his years as a county commissioner, as well as a superintendent and business manager for Western Wayne and Wallenpaupack school districts respectively, Adams said that he’s well-equipped to focus on the state’s two biggest spending categories: education and human services. This experience, he said, will help him balance the obligation to fulfill the districts’ needs with the understanding that somebody is going to have to foot the bill.
“To have a true understanding of both sides is pretty helpful,” he said. “It’s nice to be asking, but somebody’s got to figure out how to pay the bill.”
He said he was hoping to get assigned to a committee that deals with finance, commerce or economic development, since his professional background has been in the banking industry. At press time, House committee assignments were not posted.
For his portions of Wayne and Pike counties specifically, Adams said he wants to bring more jobs to the area and maintain and expand the ones that already exist here.
“We have Route 84 running right through the middle of the 139th District, with an industrial and technology business park that’s about half a mile off an exit,” he said. “Lots of good things happen when people have good jobs.”
Adams also plans to pursue an idea he campaigned on last year—property tax relief through the Homestead Exemption Act. Back in 2004, that bill was promised to use the state’s gambling revenue to help fund education, and therefore relieve homeowners’ tax burden. If that funding stream were utilized again, Adams said the exemption would be “just shy of $2,000 per homeowner.”
“The group that hasn’t had a break—that’s paying the bill—is the local homeowner who might be two or three or four generations in the same house, and the taxation has dramatically increased,” Adams said. “Somehow, someway we need to take a look at property tax relief, and the Homestead Act is a mechanism that’s already in place, already functioning. It just needs to be funded.”
His third goal: improving infrastructure. Whether it’s a road, a bridge or access to high-speed internet, rural NEPA is “not in good shape,” and Adams said tracking down funding to improve all three is a foremost goal going into the new year.
Adams’ district office can be reached by calling 570/226-5959; his Capitol office number is 717/783-2037; and information about the district and office can be found at www.repjoeadams.com.
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