The New Year is barely underway, but partisan disagreements stemming from the 2022 General Election continue to hinder operations in the state House of Representatives. Per the state constitution, members gathered on the first Tuesday of January to be sworn into office and to vote on a Speaker – something that politicos throughout the state were closing watching. Democrats won a majority in the 2022 election. However, following the passing of one member and resignations of two others who also won elections to other offices, Republicans entered the House floor with 101 members compared to Democrats 99. The unusual set of circumstances led to behind scenes political maneuvering up until the speaker selection process began.
In a surprise move, Republican Jim Gregory nominated Democrat Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, for the chamber’s top post. (By way of background, Rozzi and Gregory have a close working relationship, spearheading the House’s efforts to pass the “reviver amendment,” which would suspend the current statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse crimes to allow for a two-year window in which victims could sue their abusers and the institutions that allegedly covered up the crimes.) Unable to garner a majority of votes needed for herself to be elected Speaker, Democratic Floor Leader Joanna McClinton supported the nomination and urged her caucus to vote for Rozzi. Republican Carl Metzgar was also nominated for the position. In the end, Rozzi won by a vote of 115-85 with 16 Republicans – including all seven members in leadership – voting with the Democrats. You can read more about the Speaker election here.
In another unexpected twist, during his acceptance speech, Rozzi declared that he would be an “independent Speaker,” further shrinking the margin between which party will end up having majority control of the chamber. Rozzi has also vowed that the House will not consider any legislation until the constitutional amendment to open a two year window to sue for
long ago sexual abuse passes the House. Yet, despite Gov. Tom Wolf calling a special session to act on the constitutional amendment, the House has been at a virtual standstill. The two caucuses have yet to find agreement on House rules and committee organization. Adding another wrinkle to the dynamic, Gregory has called on Rozzi to step down as speaker following a conversation in which Rozzi is said to have been waffling on changing his party affiliation.
The Senate, in the meantime, passed a two year window constitutional amendment and included voter ID and other items, in the legislation. The Senate has adjourned until February 27, while their bill awaits action in the House.
Additional information on the current situation in the House can be found here.