By Rep. Dave Hickernell (R-Lancaster/Dauphin)
Last week, I experienced one of the highlights of my time serving in the House of Representatives. I was honored to have been asked by now Speaker Cutler to give his nomination speech and officially place his name before the members as a candidate for Speaker.
I was seated on the floor of the House as my good friend and Lancaster County colleague Bryan Cutler was elected and sworn in as the 141st Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives - marking the third time a member from Lancaster County will serve in the highest leadership position in the House.
Most importantly is what Cutler’s ascension to Speaker means for Lancaster County and Pennsylvania as a whole.
The book Wisdom, Vision and Diplomacy: Speakers of the House of the Pennsylvania House, states that “Members of the House have supported giving the Speakership to artful leaders who had visions of what needed to be done, and who had the daring, skill, intellect and leadership to make their visions a reality for both the legislature and the people of Pennsylvania.”
Bryan is this kind of person – someone with a big vision of Pennsylvania’s future, but also the attention to detail needed to bring that vision into reality. While the respective floor leaders of each party bring bills and amendments to the floor and engage in spirited debate, it is the Speaker who manages that debate, settles questions of constitutionality and really brings everyone together to get the people’s business onto the governor’s desk and signed into law.
The Speaker decides all questions of order on the House floor, appoints the chairmen and vice chairmen of all the standing committees and sub-committees. Accordingly, Cutler now sits on all committees in an ex-officio capacity, and actively serves on the influential Committee on Committees and Committee on Rules.
Of all the Speaker’s duties, deciding which bills get referred to which committees for consideration is among the most powerful. Why? Because each committee of jurisdiction control which bills come to the floor for a vote and which do not. Committees can also expedite a bill for early consideration, delay a bill’s consideration, or prevent it from being considered at all. Knowing how each of the chairmen or chairwomen may view a particular legislative matter can guide the Speaker in making this decision.
Finally, the Speaker must be an impartial presiding officer. In this, I believe Bryan will excel. Throughout his tenure in the House, members on both sides of the aisle will attest that Bryan treats every member and the issues that are important to them with respect – the same respect and deference Bryan has shown for this great institution.
I have had the pleasure of watching 10 Speakers preside here during my 36 years as a staffer and as a member.
And while all those Speakers have had their own unique style and a genuine desire to serve, only two stand out in my mind as great leaders who left their mark on the House.
I believe Bryan Cutler will be one of those great Speakers the people of Pennsylvania will remember and who future speakers will try to emulate.