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Pennsylvania has had five constitutions during its statehood: 1776, 1790, 1838, 1874, and 1968. Prior to that, the province of Pennsylvania was governed for a century by a Frame of Government, of which there were four versions: 1682, 1683, 1696, and 1701. The capital of Pennsylvania is Harrisburg. The legislature meets in the State Capitol there.
In recent elections, Pennsylvania has leaned Democratic; however, in 2010, Republicans recaputed a U.S. Senate seat, with the election of Pat Toomey, as well as a majority of the state's congressional seats and control of both chambers of the state legislature. Additionally, Republicans regained control of the governor's office when Tom Corbett was sworn in on January 18, 2011.
The current Governor is Tom Corbett, former Attorney General of Pennsylvania. The other elected officials composing the executive branch are the Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley, Attorney General William Ryan, Auditor General Jack Wagner, and State Treasurer Robert McCord.
Pennsylvania has a bicameral legislature set up by Commonwealth's constitution in 1790. The original Frame of Government of William Penn had a unicameral legislature. The General Assembly includes 50Senators and 203 Representatives. Joe Scarnati is currently President Pro Tempore of the State Senate, Dominic Pileggi the Majority Leader, and Jay Costa the Minority Leader. Sam Smith is Speaker of the House of Representatives, with Mike Turzai as Majority Leader and Frank Dermody as Minority Leader. As of the 2010 elections, the Republicans hold the majority in the State House and Senate.
Pennsylvania is divided into 60 judicial districts, most of which (except Philadelphia) have magisterial district judges (formerly called district justices and justices of the peace), who preside mainly over preliminary hearings in felony and misdemeanor offenses, all minor (summary) criminal offenses, and small civil claims. Most criminal and civil cases originate in the Courts of Common Pleas, which also serve as appellate courts to the district judges and for local agency decisions. The Superior Court hears all appeals from the Courts of Common Pleas not expressly designated to the Commonwealth Court or Supreme Court. It also has original jurisdiction to review warrants for wiretap surveillance. The Commonwealth Court is limited to appeals from final orders of certain state agencies and certain designated cases from the Courts of Common Pleas. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is the final appellate court. All judges in Pennsylvania are elected; the chief justice is determined by seniority.
Sales tax provides 39% of Commonwealth's revenue; personal income tax 34%; motor vehicle taxes about 12%, and taxes on cigarettes and alcohol beverage 5%.
Personal income tax is a flat 3.07%. An individual's taxable income is based on the following eight types of income: compensation (salary); interest; dividends; net profits from the operation of a business, profession or farm; net gains or income from the dispositions of property; net gains or income from rents, royalties, patents and copyrights; income derived through estates or trusts; and gambling and lottery winnings (other than Pennsylvania Lottery winnings).
Counties, municipalities, and school districts levy taxes on real estate. In addition, some local bodies assess a wage tax on personal income. Generally, the total wage tax rate is capped at 1% of income but some municipalities with home rule charters may charge more than 1%. Thirty-two of the Commonwealth's sixty-seven counties levy a personal property tax on stocks, bonds, and similar holdings.
Representation in the 112th Congress
Pennsylvania's two U.S. Senators in the 112th Congress are Bob Casey, Jr. and Pat Toomey
Pennsylvania's U.S. Representatives for the term beginning January 2011 are Bob Brady (1st), Chaka Fattah (2nd), Mike Kelly (3rd), Jason Altmire (4th), Glenn "G.T." Thompson (5th), Jim Gerlach (6th), Pat Meehan (7th), Mike Fitzpatrick (8th), Bill Shuster (9th), Tom Marino (10th), Lou Barletta (11th), Mark Critz (12th), Allyson Schwartz (13th), Mike Doyle (14th), Charlie Dent (15th), Joe Pitts (16th), Tim Holden (17th),Tim Murphy (18th), and Todd Platts (19th).
In the past decade, no political party has been clearly dominant in Pennsylvania. This, combined with Pennsylvania's rank of 6th in the country in population, has made it one of the most important swing states. Democrats are strong in Philadelphia County, Delaware County, Erie County, Allegheny County, Lehigh County, Northampton County, Luzerne County, and Lackawanna County. Republicans are strong inLancaster County, York County, Franklin County, Westmoreland County, Butler County, Blair County, Lycoming County, and Cumberland County. Swing counties in the state include Bucks County, Chester County, Berks County, Dauphin County, Cambria County, Beaver County, and Mercer County. In general, the Democrats are strongest in the large metro areas, particularly Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie, and Allentown, while Republican support is widespread in rural areas in the central Allegheny Mountains and in the northern counties.
Since 1992, Pennsylvania has been trending Democratic in Presidential elections (though the Pittsburgh metropolitan area trended more Republican in the 2008 Presidential election), voting for Bill Clinton twice by large margins, and slightly closer in 2000 for Al Gore. In the 2004 Presidential Election, Senator John F. Kerry beat President George W. Bush in Pennsylvania 2,938,095 (50.92%) to 2,793,847 (48.42%). Most recently, in the 2008 Presidential Election, Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain in Pennsylvania, 3,184,778 (54%) to 2,584,088 (44%). The state holds 21 electoral votes.
The 2010 elections witnessed Republican victories throughout the state. Republicans captured control of the governor's office and both chambers of the state legislature. Republican Pat Toomey defeated DemocratJoe Sestak for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democratic senator Arlen Specter. Republicans also won five previously Democratic-held House seats, creating a 12–7 Republican majority congressional delegation.