Sen. Kim Ward was elected by her colleagues on Tuesday as the first woman Senate President pro tempore, or leader of the Pennsylvania Senate.
She will also serve as lieutenant governor until Democrat Rep. Austin Davis is inaugurated on Jan. 17. (Davis resigned from the House last month to prepare for his new position.)
Ward (R-Westmoreland) noted in her remarks to senators that more women are now serving in the Senate than ever before, eight Republicans and eight Democrats. While the House is nearly evenly divided, with Democrats likely to take control after three special elections to fill vacancies are held, the Senate retains a Republican majority.
Democrat Josh Shapiro will become governor this month.
Asked what she believes the legislature can accomplish with a Democratic governor and House, Ward told the Delaware Valley Journal that bills that are “good for the people of Pennsylvania” will be passed.
Her number one priority is a constitutional amendment requiring voter identification.
“That’s probably the most important thing we want to get done,” she said. Polling shows most Pennsylvanians, regardless of party, agree that voters should show their ID to vote.
“It’s a popular issue,” she said. “It’s 100 percent common sense.”
Asked what she can do to stop the state’s continued population loss (about 40,000 people from July 2021 to July 2022), she said the newly decreased corporate income tax should help.
“I think it’s important in that it is businesses bring jobs, right?” said Ward. The legislature passed “a big package. It’s going to help everybody in Pennsylvania.”
She also wants to unleash the energy sector and promote Marcellus Shale gas.
“We should choose to use the vast natural resources that we’re sitting upon,” she said. “And we don’t need to be pounding negatively on other energies and other energy sources do not need to pound negatively on fossil fuels.”
Using that natural gas will bring more jobs and more people to the state, she said.
And she’s hopeful that Shapiro will keep to his campaign commitment to take Pennsylvania out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that Gov. Tom Wolf entered despite legislative denials.
She asked why Pennsylvania should be “negatively impacted” by RGGI, which will increase electricity costs, because “New York and these other northeastern states don’t have what we have (natural gas).”
The DVJournal wondered whether Republicans in Harrisburg and the rest of the state think the Delaware Valley is now hopelessly Democratic.
Ward said, “We’re never going to give up. We’re going to come back and get all of you to come back to our side.”
Asked her advice for other women who aspire to leadership positions, Ward was straightforward.
“Stay focused. Keep your eyes on where you’re to be. Work hard as you can and don’t let anybody tell you, you can’t do something because yes, you can.”
At her swearing-in ceremony, Ward said that in addition to reducing the corporate net income tax, they increased education spending and g, created the Pennsylvania Edge Tax Credit program to increase energy production. They also created a childcare tax credit, a home repair program, and a health care prior authorization change to help people access needed procedures. And these improvements were done in a bipartisan way.
“As we look forward, I’m hopeful that we can, together, put Pennsylvania on a greater path to prosperity,” she said. “By tapping into our state’s energy abundance, we can fuel our state’s economy, create, and maintain good family-sustaining jobs and create energy independence, not only for our commonwealth but for our nation.”
Ward also wants to promote “earlier detection of breast cancer and greater access to a BRCA gene test for women.”