The Pennsylvania House of Representatives predates the United States Congress by more than a century and is one of our nation's first independent legislative bodies. Since its creation in 1682, the House has been led by 138 different Speakers. The Speaker of the House is the oldest statewide elected position in Pennsylvania and the only House leadership office mandated by the state Constitution. Unlike the federal government, the Speaker of the Pennsylvania House must be a duly elected member of the body.
The first meeting of what was then known as the Provincial Assembly convened on December 4, 1682. While the election of the Speaker is not identified in the minutes, Nicholas More and Thomas Wynne potentially filled the role. More than 80 years later, the state's best-known Speaker, Benjamin Franklin, was elected to the post.
The Speaker is elected by a majority of the 203 members when the House convenes a new session in each odd-numbered year. He or she is both the presiding officer and the administrative head of the institution. The Speaker presides over legislative sessions and preserves order and decorum while the House is in session. He or she decides all questions of order and ensures all rules and regulations for voting and parliamentary procedures are followed. In addition, the Speaker oversees the committee process by appointing the chairmen and vice chairmen and refers all bills to these committees for consideration.
The Speaker may also sponsor legislation and vote on bills, and on rare occasions may turn the gavel over to a Speaker Pro Tempore (temporary Speaker) in order to occupy a desk on the House floor and participate in debate.
The Speaker of the House is, by law, the third in line to succeed the Governor, after the Lieutenant Governor and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
Information about the current Speaker, the Honorable Mike Turzai, is available at www.RepTurzai.com.