In Harrisburg, the New Year holiday coincided with a ceremony known as “First Tuesday,” when three of 42 new House members representing parts of Washington County took their oaths of office.
Meanwhile, Guy Reschenthaler, 35, of Peters Township resigned from his state Senate seat Dec. 31 in advance of swearing-in ceremonies today as the 116th Congress convenes.
The vacancy will trigger a special election at a date to be announced to fill the remainder of Reschenthaler’s 37th District term. The district includes Peters Township. Washington County Elections Director Larry Spahr said Wednesday he had not yet been officially notified by state officials about the special election.
Those taking oaths of office Tuesday in Harrisburg included three new Republican state representatives: Natalie Mihalek of Upper St. Clair, Mike Puskaric of Elizabeth Township and Joshua Kail of Beaver Borough.
Mihalek officially began her first term as state representative of the 40th Legislative District.
She was elected in November to fill the seat vacated by Rep. John Maher, who served part of Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair and Peters townships for 21 years. Maher did not seek re-election.
She said in a news release she is “mindful of the need to address the state’s opioid crisis, establish policies that encourage the creation of family-sustaining jobs and ensure that our children receive a good education in a safe environment.”
Mihalek, a native of Allegheny County and mother of three, is one of 51 women elected to the House in November – the largest percentage of female legislators to date. Women still comprise less than 25 percent of House members.
Mihalek, 39, of Upper St. Clair, is the first woman to represent the district since Alice Langtry did so from 1985 to 1992.
She enlisted in the U.S. Navy following high school, serving in the nuclear power program, of which only one percent of the sailors admitted were women. After her military service, she returned home to Allegheny County, where she attended the University of Pittsburgh, earning bachelor’s and law degrees before beginning her legal career in the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.
She and her husband, Jeremy, have three young children.
Also marking the beginning of the 203rd Pennsylvania General Assembly was state Rep. Mike Puskaric in the 39th Legislative District.
“Although today’s ceremony capped many months of hard work on the part of my family and dedicated friends and supporters, it also marks the beginning of the real work ahead – that of serving as the voice of my constituents,” said Puskaric in a news release. “I will work in earnest to support legislation and policies that solve problems, not create more of them.”
Puskaric, 29, pledged to hold taxes and spending steady, and he listed job creation, infrastructure improvements and school safety as challenges that must be faced.
Puskaric described himself as a strong supporter for state’s rights, Second Amendment rights and school choice. He said he will also strive to reform Harrisburg by ending perks, restructuring the pension system and ending the influence of special interests.
A lifelong resident of Western Pennsylvania, Puskaric graduated from Serra Catholic High School and earned a communications degree from Seton Hill University.
Puskaric’s district office will be at 1633 State Route 51, Suite G-102, Jefferson Hills, which can be reached by calling 412-382-2009.
The 39th Legislative District includes part of Bethel Park in addition to Elizabeth, Elizabeth Township, Forward Township, Jefferson Hills, West Elizabeth, and parts of South Park Township in Allegheny County. It also includes Finleyville, Nottingham Township, Somerset Township and Union Township in Washington County.
Kail, 32, succeeds Jim Christiana in representing the 15th District in Beaver and western Washington counties.
“To have been given the opportunity to work for the residents of the 15th District in this capacity is truly an honor,” said Kail in a news release. “I take this new responsibility very seriously, and I am going to work hard to make sure that their voice is heard in Harrisburg.”
Kail sees his role as one of protecting taxpayers, reforming Harrisburg, defending constitutional liberties and bringing family-sustaining jobs to the 15th Legislative District.
“In terms of economic development and jobs, these are exciting times for the 15th District,” Kail said. “I want to make sure Harrisburg doesn’t do anything to hinder the growth we are experiencing, and instead, remains focused on policies that will bring about additional opportunities for our families.”
State Rep. Tim O’Neal, R-South Strabane, whose 48th District includes the Washington-Canonsburg area, was sworn into his first full two-year term. He won a special election in May 2018 to succeed state Rep. Brandon Neuman, who resigned his legislative seat after being elected to the Washington County Court of Common Pleas.
Other returning incumbents are:
- State Rep. Jason Ortitay, R-Cecil Township, sworn in for his third, two-year term in the 46th District, which includes Collier and South Fayette townships and Bridgeville, Heidelberg, McDonald and Oakdale in Allegheny County and Canton, Cecil, Mt. Pleasant, Robinson and Smith townships and Burgettstown, McDonald and Midway in Washington County.
- State Rep. Bud Cook, R-West Pike Run Township, sworn in for his second, two-year term in the 49th District. which includes parts of the Mon Valley in Washington and Fayette counties.
- State Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Jefferson, whose 50th District includes all of Greene County and parts of Washington and Fayette counties. She began her fourth, two-year term. Her Brownsville office will be closed on Fridays, and there will no longer be outreach in Richeyville and Hiller.
- State Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Carroll Township, whose 46th District includes Washington County, with the exception of Peters Township, Greene County and part of Beaver County.
Base salary for Pennsylvania state legislators in 2019 will be $88,610.
Members of both the state House of Representatives and Senate are scheduled to return Tuesday, Jan. 15, for the new legislative session.