State legislature resigns to take on new role in Pa. Senate

A state legislator who has represented parts of north-central Pennsylvania for the past three decades is giving up his Senate seat to take on a new role in that legislative chamber.

Sen. John Gfalter, a Republican, announced Monday that he will vacate his seat in the 27th Senate district on Wednesday to become adviser to interim Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland County on Thursday.

Ward, who was elected to office earlier this month, will see her position permanently ratified when the new legislative session begins on January 3.

Gmapper, 60, of Berwick, Columbia County, recently said it is his intention to serve until the end of his term in November 2024 and then to retire.

“However, I have been presented with a unique opportunity which, after much family discussion and reflection, I have decided to accept,” he said in a statement. “The new position will allow me to fully leverage my 30 years of legislative experience in the House and Senate, as well as my 35 years of practice as an attorney.”

Gfalter sees his role as helping to fill a void in the Senate created by the loss of decades of institutional knowledge over the past five or six years after elected officials and staff left.

He considers himself an expert on rules and procedures and was someone who reads every bill and amendment and reviews regulations, all of which he sees as crucial to drafting legislation with the incoming governor while also driving the agenda of the Senate Republican faction.

Ward’s office issued a statement welcoming him to their team.

“John is well respected in the Senate for his insight into legislation and policy and his expertise in rules and procedures,” Ward said. “I have worked closely with John in leadership for the last two years and have relied on his advice. I trust his input and that is key as I take on my new role.”

“We’ve lost a lot of institutional knowledge in the last five or six years, whether it’s in terms of elected officials or in terms of staff,” he said. “I

Gfalter held the Whip’s leadership position in the Senate Republican faction from 2014 until this year, when he decided not to continue the leadership for the final two years of his term.

Throughout his career as a legislature, Gfalter is credited with writing or contributing to 56 bills signed by Republican and Democratic governors.

These include changes to the state’s unemployment insurance law, increasing the penalty for possession of chemicals used to manufacture a controlled substance, banning the practice of allowing someone to buy credit instead of serving a community service sentence, and itself Commit this year to an effort to secure record investments in the state’s environment, farmland conservation, state parks and forests, and water and sanitation infrastructure.

He has also helped direct millions of dollars in grants for a variety of public works projects in Columbia, Lucerne, Montour, and Northumberland counties over the years.

Most recently, he chaired the Capitol Preservation Committee, which undertook projects such as renovations of the governor’s office and the Pennsylvania Civil War Battle Flag Education Center. Having to leave that post to take on his new role is one of the “sad notes for me,” Gmapper said.

He began his legislative career as a Democrat in the House of Representatives and switched to the Republican in 2001. As a Republican, he was elected to the Senate in a special election in 2003 and has since been re-elected five times.

His departure will reduce the GOP’s party lead in the Senate to 27-22 seats when the new legislative session begins, pending a special election. The 27th Senate district is heavily Republican, according to Dave’s Redistricting.

PennLive correspondent John Beauge contributed to this story.

Jan Murphy can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @JanMurphy.

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