Despite diversity gains, Pa. Legislature remains overwhelmingly white, male institution | Wednesday Morning Coffee

October 7, 2020 7:06 am

(Capital-Star file)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Despite some inroads over the last few years, Pennsylvania’s 253-member General Assembly remains an overwhelmingly white and male institution, though its membership is growing slightly younger as the Baby Boomers move into their retirement years.

According to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures, a clearinghouse for state lawmakers, 91 percent of Pennsylvania’s Legislature’s membership is white. Statewide, whites make up 81 percent of the commonwealth’s population, according to 2019 Census data.

While Blacks make up 12 percent of the state’s population, based on Census data, they are 9 percent of the Legislature’s membership, according to the NCSL data, which compares the chamber’s membership in 2015 to its membership in 2020.

Hispanics and Latinos make up 1 percent of the chamber’s membership, compared to the statewide rate of 7.8 percent, based on 2019 Census data.

Elizabeth Fiedler, Sara Innamorato, and Summer Lee (Elizabeth Fiedler / Facebook)

And while women make up 51 percent of the commonwealth’s population, they’re 27 percent of the Legislature’s membership. That’s an increase from 2015, when they comprised 18 percent of the Legislature’s membership, according to the NCSL data. But it’s still a profound gap.

A September report by the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Women’s Policy Research ranked the state 31st nationwide for overall political participation by women.

When it comes the two chambers’ age breakdown, a hearty “OK, Boomer, ” is still acceptable, but only just:

Age, by generation:   2015     2020
Generation Z  n/a          0%
Millennial  7%  4%
Generation X  28% 17%
Baby Boomer  57% 28%
Silent Generation  9% 4%


And for the trainspotters, here’s the breakdown on education levels:                 

< Bachelor’s Degree      4%.          3%
Bachelor’s Degree   36%     35%
Advanced Degree   38%  n/a
Master’s Degree   n/a   18%
Law Degree   n/a  18%
Ph.D.   n/a  4%


Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Our Battle for the Ballot Series continues this Wednesday with an in-depth look at how the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act opened the floodgates to new restrictions nationwide

Prompted by a COVID-19 diagnosis in the House, the state Senate cut its voting schedule short for the week on Tuesday, leaving some important work unfinished, Elizabeth Hardison reports.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale rolled out a long-awaited review of Gov. Tom Wolf’s business waiver program, finding it was ‘built on shifting sands,’ but stopped short of offering reforms, Stephen Caruso reports.

The Wolf administration announced new guidance for outdoor and indoor gatherings on Tuesday, tying them to a venue’s maximum occupancy, your humble newsletter author reports.

A highly competitive state House race in Allegheny County is being roiled by a debate over debates, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

Our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News catch up with Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philly, who just wrapped up a statewide car trip, where he met with Democratic state House hopefuls.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, joined by other industry allies, has declared racism a public health crisis, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Bruce Ledewitz has pointers for the Senate Judiciary Committee during its upcoming SCOTUS confirmation hearings. And regular Simon Haeder, of Penn Stateisn’t exactly pumped full of confidence by President Donald Trump’s executive order on preexisting conditions.


(Photo via pxHere)

Facing a contract stalemate, teachers in Philadelphia may limit their work to school hours only, the Inquirer reports.
During a speech in Gettysburg, Democratic nominee Joe Biden made a plea for national unity, as he cast the election as a battle for the ‘soul of the nation,’ the Tribune-Review reports.
PennLive looks at the volley of attack ads in the closely watched fight for central Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District between GOP U.S. Rep. Scott Perry and Democratic challenger Eugene DePasquale.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., says postal workers have told him there are active efforts to sabotage the mail in the Lehigh Valley, the Morning Call reports.
Luzerne County Elections Director Shelby Watchilla has sued county Councilman Walter Griffith for defamation, the Citizens-Voice reports.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:

It’s October, and murders in Philadelphia already have exceeded 2019 levels, WHYY-FM reports.
Even with reductions in traffic, work zone crashes have spiked during the pandemic, reports.
With the Veep debate looming, Politico looks at how Kamala Harris has done as Joe Biden’s running-mate.

What Goes On.
The Legislative Budget & Finance Committee is scheduled to meet at 9:30 a.m. in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
The House and Senate may not be in session, but the wheels of fundraising grind inexorably, implacably forward today.
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen Mike Regan
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. George Dunbar
6 p.m.: Virtual ‘KentoberFest,’ for Montgomery County Commissioner Ken Lawrence (Yes, that’s what it’s called).
6 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Barry Jozwiak
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out an absolutely preposterous $8,500 today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Capital-Star opinion contributor Mark O’Keefe, who celebrates today. Congratulations, sir, and enjoy your big day.

Heavy Rotation.
The rock world mourned the passing of a legend on Tuesday, with news that guitarist Eddie Van Halen, a co-founder of Van Halen, had died, aged 65, from cancer. Here’s an unparalleled moment of his virtuosity: ‘Eruption.’ Rest in peace, sir.

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
The Guardian ranks the 20 most promising players 
in the Premier League.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.