State reps sworn in during New Year's Day service
by justin strawser
HARRISBURG - Both state Reps. Kurt Masser (R-107) and Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-108) were humbled and admittedly still nervous as they took the oath of office for their second terms along with 201 duly elected legislators in the 197th Session of the House of Representatives at the Capitol Building Tuesday afternoon.
Masser was joined by his mother, Carole Masser, and his 24-year-old son, Glenn Masser, on the floor of the House, while other family members and friends watched via live feed from a conference room in another part of the building.
Culver was joined by her husband, Tom Culver, her niece Amanda Riedinger, and her older sister, Pam Lehman, while other family members watched via live feed from the governor's office.
"I feel good," Masser said before the noon ceremony. "I'm humbled by the trust that the voters put in me. Today kind of brings that home."
In his first term, he said he represented the voices of the citizens and voted for their wishes and concerns, which he will again focus on in his second term.
In the last two years, Masser has learned the process of being a representative and which doors to knock on when he needs something for his district.
"The second time will be easier in that respect," he said. "But it's an nervous process."
Culver agreed about being nervous and added she, too, was humbled and a little overwhelmed at times in the last two years.
She was also asked to second the nomination of state Rep Sam Smith (R-66) to his second term as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
"I'm a little nervous for that, a little more now that I'm here," she said before the ceremony. "But it's a great honor."
Masser actually presented the first resolution of 2013 in which the House unanimously agreed to proceed with the election of the Speaker of the House.
State Rep. Brian L. Ellis (R-11) nominated Smith while State Rep. Marcia M. Hahn (R-138) and Culver both seconded his nomination.
Smith received a unanimous vote for speaker.
'Kinship' with Masser
Culver said she feels a bit of a kinship with Masser since they're from the same county and were freshman legislators together.
"It's nice to have that kind of support there (Northumberland County) and in Harrisburg," she said.
In the reorganizations of offices this term, Culver's office was moved into the same suite as Masser at 414-415 Irvis Office Building in the capitol.
"We certainly work together all the time, and having her in the next office space is handy," Masser said.
Culver said she and Masser attempt to sit on different committees in order to cover more ground in the House and therefore have the most benefits for the people of their collective areas.
Gordner sworn in, too
State Sen. John Gordner (R-27) was also sworn into the state Senate Tuesday afternoon. When contacted via phone later that afternoon, he said his wife, two children and his chief of staff and his wife were present for the ceremony.
His formal role in the ceremony was to chair a three-member senate committee to inform the House the Senate was organized at 2 p.m.
There are several challenges in the coming year, including trying to pass the state budget on time for the third year in a row, Gordner said.
The senator also said the two biggest challenges - to which Culver and Masser agreed - are transportation funding and pension increases.
Gornder, who is on the transportation committee, said the governor will likely introduce the transportation budget and pension cost proposals by January or February.
"I believe in this coming year's budget, the cost of pensions will increase by $600 million," Gordner said. "That affects every other item. There's not a lot of room for other budget items."
Legislators must find a way of containing the cost of the pension system, he said.
In 2001, he noted he was one of 30 members who voted against increasing pension contributions.
As chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, Gordner said he will be looking at unemployment, workforce development and how to get those on the unemployed list the necessary skills to obtain jobs.
Other projects he will be focusing on are the Shamokin Creek Flood Control project in Mount Carmel, the sewer authority in Coal Township and the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA).
All three legislators said they would be enjoying a dinner of pork and sauerkraut after their time in Harrisburg with their families.
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta will be sworn in at noon Thursday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in the Capitol in Washington, D.C.State Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-108), left, looks at a Bible with State Rep. Marcia M. Hahn (R-138) Tuesday before the swearing in ceremony Tuesday at the House of Representatives in the Capitol Building. She would later use the Bible to be sworn in. State Rep. Kurt Masser (R-107) looks over the swearing in program with his mother, Carole Masser, Tuesday before the swearing in ceremony Tuesday at the House of Representatives in the Capitol Building. State Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-108), seen here in a video clip from a live feed of the swearing in ceremony Tuesday at the Capitol Building, was one of two legislators to second the nomination of state Rep Sam Smith (R-66) to his second term as Speaker of the House of Representatives.