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A Pennsylvania House Democrat is resigning amid the budget impasse, costing the caucus its one-vote advantage

Representative Sara Innamorato.
Commonwealth Media Services
Representative Sara Innamorato.

Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will once again be tied at 101-101 following the resignation of a Western Pennsylvania Democrat.

State Rep. Sara Innamorato (D., Allegheny), told Spotlight PA that she intends to resign from office as she pursues her campaign to be the next Allegheny County executive.

Innamorato previously told Spotlight PA she would resign only if she won the general election in November. But on Wednesday, Innamorato told the newsroom in a text message that she is resigning today. She did not immediately say what changed her mind about stepping down.

Her resignation once again brings uncertainty to the legislative agenda in the 203-member lower chamber amid a more than two-week budget impasse that does not appear poised to end anytime soon.

Democrats flipped the chamber from Republicans in 2022, winning 102 seats on Election Day in November.

But disputes over the legitimacy of the Democrats’ majority — spurred by a pre-election death, multiple representatives pursuing higher office, and a scandal that led to a resignation — have been common over the past several months.

A rule written and approved by House Democrats in March states that the majority party is the one that “won the greater number of elections for the 203 seats in the House of Representatives in the general election preceding the term of service that began on the first day of December next after the general election.”

Should a vacancy occur during the term, the definition continues, “the political party that won that seat at the last election shall remain the party that won that seat until any subsequent special election is held to fill that seat.”

Control would only be reshuffled if a seat flips, the definition concludes.

Democrats argued the rule allows for state House operations to continue “without potential disruption;” Republicans argued it allows for Democrats to cling to power through artificial means.

But in the short term, the rule allows Democrats to remain in control of the chamber’s important committees and voting calendar even without Innamorato.

However, if there is a 101-101 tie, bills will not be able to pass the full chamber without GOP support, further complicating the path forward for budget-related legislation.

Some GOP lawmakers have joined Democrats to support certain bills, even when Democrats already had 102 votes. A number of marquee Democratic agenda items — including stricter gun laws, a minimum wage increase, and LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections — advanced with Republican votes.

Once Innamorato sends a resignation letter to state House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D., Philadelphia), McClinton will have 10 days to schedule a special election. The earliest Tuesday the special election could be held under state law is Sept. 19.

The district, which includes Pittsburgh’s Strip District and Lawrenceville neighborhoods, as well as part of the city’s northern suburbs, is unlikely to flip; Innamorato won 64% of the vote in last year’s election.

The state House is next scheduled to vote on legislation on Sept. 26. However, lawmakers could return earlier if needed due to budget negotiations.

Democrats face at least one additional special election in the coming months. State Rep. John Galloway (D., Bucks) will be on the ballot this November as he runs for a local judgeship.

He previously told Spotlight PA he wouldn’t resign early, which he reaffirmed Wednesday.

“The election isn’t until November, and I haven’t won anything yet,” said Galloway, who will appear on the ballot as both the Democratic and Republican candidate.