HARRISBURG - Among the legislators who have said farewell to the House and Senate in recent weeks are a few who have served in the General Assembly for longer than some of their youngest colleagues have been alive.
There's Rep. Mark Cohen, the Philadelphia Democrat who has served in the House since a special election in 1974. There's Rep. Dwight Evans, who joined the Philadelphia delegation in 1981 and left this month to represent the city in Congress.
From Western Pennsylvania, there's Sen. John Wozniak, a Johnstown Democrat who joined the House in 1981 and went on to the Senate in 1997. And Rep. Pete Daley (D., California), first sworn in in 1983.
A handful of current legislators weren't even born by the time Daley took office. He arrived at age 32, having already served as mayor of his hometown of California.
"It was a whole different world in the legislature," said Daley, who chose this year not to seek another term. "The freshmen members had very little input, if any input at all. . . . They didn't coddle us, like they do today."
New Republican and Democratic members would get together and try to figure out the rules that governed the Capitol, he said. They played football and skied together. "It was like a pledge class in a fraternity," he said.
Cohen, the longest-serving House member, sought another term but was defeated by Jared Solomon in the primary election. When he arrived in Harrisburg more than four decades ago, Cohen said, he was surprised by how engaged many of his fellow legislators were.
"I had read a lot of criticisms of the legislature and of legislators, and I was very doubtful very much could be accomplished, although I wanted to try," he said. "When I got here, and I got to know more and more of the legislators, I saw how wrong that initial impression had been, and how much potential there was for the legislature to play a meaningful role in improving peoples' lives in Pennsylvania."
Cohen said he took particular pride in laws that increased the state minimum wage, and he cited other accomplishments including the establishment in the late 1970s of a program to subsidize prescriptions for low- and moderate-income senior citizens.
Another retiring legislator, Rep. Bill Adolph, the Delaware County Republican who as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee has had a role in the development of state budgets, said serving in the House taught him about the diversity of Pennsylvania. At home in Delaware County, he said, he has many universities and hospitals nearby - but no coal mines or gas wells.
"There's a big difference in the way people's lifestyles are across the commonwealth," said Adolph, who took office in 1988. "That was the biggest thing I had to learn, the diversity. It's what makes Pennsylvania great. It also sometimes makes it a little bit difficult to govern."
The legislative session ends Wednesday.
Adolph said he will take phone calls and emails through the final day. "I'm playing until the whistle blows," said the former longtime youth football coach.
The legislature is used to changes in its ranks, House Democratic caucus spokesman Bill Patton said.
"The legislature is built for this," Patton said in an email. "The longer-serving members help to preserve institutional memory and play an important role in ensuring continuity from one administration to the next."
Other longtime legislators who will be leaving Harrisburg include Sen. Shirley Kitchen, a Philadelphia Democrat who has served in the Senate since 1996 and earlier served a year in the House; Sen. Pat Vance (R., Cumberland), in office since 2005 and before that in the House from 1991 to 2004; Rep. Chris Ross (R., Chester), in the House since 1997; Rep. Sandra Major, (R., Susquehanna), a House member since 1995; Rep. Julie Harhart (R., Northampton), a House member since 1995; and Rep. Mike Vereb (R., Montgomery), in the House since 2007.