Could Governor-elect Josh Shapiro step up and make the PA House and Senate get to work?

January 24 – It’s been three weeks since swearing in day in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in Harrisburg and so far, no work has been done. 

In fact, the PA Senate has also recessed until the end of February, likely because the House business has ground to a halt. 

This all stemmed from a contentious decision for Speaker of the House. Republican leadership nominated Democrat Mark Rozzi for speaker, likely on the promise he would switch his party affiliation to Independent. 

That has not yet happened. 

Since then, Rozzi hasn’t even brought the Chamber together to form rules for the House. In fact, some are speculating he could be running out the clock until special elections in February that will likely give Democrats control of the House. 

Frustrated Pennsylvanians are wondering what it will take to get anything done in Harrisburg right now. 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM speculated, “Here’s a real opportunity for the new governor, Josh Shapiro. If you really want to look presidential here, you want a real bite here, put Josh Shapiro in with some of the leadership from the Republicans, some of the leadership from the Democrats. You put that guy in saying, ‘okay, all of you are dysfunctional. I’m the leader of the band for Pennsylvania. House, Senate, get in my office. Let’s sit down and hash this thing out and do what’s right on behalf of the commonwealth and Pennsylvanians. You talk about a moment in Josh Shapiro’s political life that could really propel him on a national platform, that would be it.” 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll agreed, “I wonder if the stage could be set for that soon. To some extent, he may be giving some deference, particularly to the House to try to get this cleaned up, but if this goes on for much longer, might he engage in the manner you just suggested. Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly would agree that we need to have a functioning House. We need them in session. We need them to be addressing so many issues. I don’t think he can sit back forever and I do think there is a scenario here where the governor could come out of this looking really, really good.” 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “The outgoing governor put his thumb weightily on the scale by calling that special session only for that one obsessed-with legislation of Mark Rozzi’s, his view of what would bring the best justice for past child sexual abuse, which I think is very controversial and I don’t think necessarily will be great justice or great for the state. I wonder how much Josh Shapiro is willing to step on something that Governor Wolf did with him just barely out of office. Shapiro would sort of have to overrule and maybe look less biased than Governor Wolf, which I know he wants to look like that, but do you think that might be a little bit too messy now that Governor Wolf made such a strong, biased statement in one direction?” 

Ryan said, “I don’t think Josh Shapiro cares about Governor Wolf at all.” 

Jansen noted, “He still has all his people around him. A lot of them. In all the bureaucracies. So I think he’s got to tread a little bit of a fine line there on appearing too much against the progressive left extremists that Governor Wolf put into all the bureaucracies there.” 

In order to get the constitutional amendment to reopen the statute of limitations window for child sexual abuse victims on the spring ballot, it would have to be passed by the House by this Friday. This amendment is Rozzi’s raison d’être. He was a victim of child sexual abuse himself. 

Barkdoll predicted, “I don’t see how that happens. Maybe Shapiro sits back, gets engaged after Friday, knowing that they won’t have time to get it on the spring ballot.” 

Republican Representative Jim Gregory from Blair County, who drafted the constitutional amendment for child sexual abuse victims, had his own press conference yesterday calling on Republicans to come into the House and vote on just that amendment – stripped from the initial combination. The amendment for child sexual abuse was bundled with initiatives that included voter ID and regulatory reform. 

Barkdoll suggested, “So maybe that’s Shapiro’s strategy. He’s going to let them spin their wheels this week, once you get past the Friday deadline, then maybe he starts to exert some pressure here.” 

Jansen said, “There’s no way the Republicans can do that, not with all the gaffs that the leadership in the Republican House made in setting up this Keystone Cop scenario where the only thing they thought they might get out of it is the voter ID on the amendment. If Republicans come in and vote for a clean amendment, I think the voters in Pennsylvania will have had it with all of them.” 

Barkdoll said, “The irony in this whole situation is both parties are very hypocritical about these issues in the sense that Republicans don’t really want this passed because they know if this constitutional amendment on statute of limitations gets on the ballot, it’s likely the public is going to pass it and on the same token, the Democrats don’t want voter ID on the ballot because they know voters will overwhelmingly approve that constitutional amendment. So it is kind of ironic the positioning that each party is taking on these issues because they know that the voters will approve all of these initiatives.” 

Jansen said, “The fact that Gregory could have the gall or the nerve to ask for that after he’s the idiot – and I am going to call him an idiot – he’s actually a very selfish man who only wants his stuff done. He and Rozzi are both incredibly selfish human in my opinion for what they’ve done to the state. He’s the one that went to the leadership and said ‘oh you know if you ask Rozzi, he might be willing to change parties for you.’ He’s the little worm that set this all up. The nerve of him to come out in a press conference and ask for this. I’m sorry, for the Republican voters of Pennsylvania, I’m going to express the outrage on that.” 

Berks County Republican parties issued a formal censure on 16 Republican state legislators yesterday who voted for Rozzi for speaker. None of the representatives are from Berks County, but the official censure shows the dismay of the party. 

Barkdoll said, “It’ll be interesting to see if other county parties might take the same measure this week.”