February 2 – With the Pennsylvania House and Senate both in recess until the end of the month, a number of legislators are incredibly irritated that they aren’t working in the Chambers.
The whole recess came because of the inability of the PA House to decide on rules and get to work. Democrat Mark Rozzi was voted in as Speaker of the House after a shocking nomination from Republican leadership in the House in early January and since then, it’s basically been chaos.
The nomination of a Democrat was apparently done with the understanding that Rozzi would change his registration to Independent. That hasn’t happened and apparently won’t after an interview a few days ago Rozzi did with the AP.
This insanity prompted the PA Senate to recess until February 27. The PA House followed soon after.
This all basically comes down to three empty Democrat seats in the House. The Republicans will have the physical, people-in-the-seats majority until special elections are held to fill the three empty Democrat seats.
Many people see all of this as an effort by Democrats to wait until they will have control of the House to do anything. Some are speculating it was a way to get Joanna McClinton, the Democrat leader from Philadelphia in as House speaker.
But until then, it’s gridlock.
Representative Rob Kauffman said, “We would be in Harrisburg digging in, getting down to business on the legislative matters. We were actually in Harrisburg on Monday. We had some meetings, policy committee meeting, as well as we had a caucus kind of arguing this thing out.”
House Republicans attempted to get a petition singed, asking for a week of voting session days.
They needed 101 signatures and were hoping to get all Republicans on board.
But Representative Tom Mehaffie from Dauphin County would not sign.
Attorney Clint Barkdoll pointed out, “Had he signed, they could have gotten back into session. He has not really made any interviews or statements as to why he would not cooperate in signing that letter.”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “We have to remember this is the same guy that threw the whole House into turmoil when they went in there and had the majority by a vote and then when the Democrats said we’re going to vote to shut down, he wouldn’t join the Republicans to counter that. That’s what put us into the whole situation where the GOP leadership made such a bad decision. For him to be that irresponsible at this point to throw us into this kind of uncertainty, he’s then using his own selfish power to create a lot of these problems. He’s very responsible for putting us in the mess that we’re in.”
Barkdoll added, “Had he signed that letter, they could have forced the House back into session and get down to business, regardless of who the speaker would be or who was in control. It would have been an effective way to address this paralysis that everyone is in, but because he didn’t sign off on that, this is going to ride until February 27th with no action.”
Kauffman said, “If he wasn’t going to, any Democrat could have stepped up and signed that letter as well. They’re not doing that because I guess they’re concerned we come back into session, we pass our rules.”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “Mehaffie made this statement: ‘It is my hope that my colleagues will relinquish short term power grabs so we can once again rely on humility and collaboration to better serve the people who elected us. I will not use my office to score frivolous political points at the expense of our constituents.’ It seems to me that is exactly what he is doing.”
Kauffman said, “Representative Mehaffie has been an issue for a long time in Harrisburg. His hand has been held. He’s been adequately coddled by Republican leadership and trying to walk him along and while we were in the majority, arguably the solid majority, it was to his personal benefit to be part of that majority and play along, but now that he sees himself as a supreme power broker, he is using that influence for the benefit of certain special interests that he caters to.”
In fact, news reports showed an 18-wheeler outside Mehaffie’s office yesterday that was lettered with union insignias.
Kauffman said, “This is about him and his union folks and who they want to see in power and running the show. It was a union who’s who outside Tom Mehaffie’s district office yesterday.”
Jansen noted, “It will be very interesting to see in the next couple of years what he does with his position and if he really is serious about just wanting integrity back or if he’s going to use things for his own advantage.”
The special elections for the three House seats are scheduled for next Tuesday, where insiders speculate they will fall to Democrats.
Adding more mud to an already incredibly muddy situation, a Republican member of the House was voted into the PA Senate in a special election this Tuesday.
Representative Lynda Culver from the Selinsgrove area will be resigning to go to the Senate and another special election will happen in May to fill her seat. Until then the Republicans will be down another seat.
Kauffman said, “This is going to be happening probably the rest of the year. We have folks running for municipal office out in the Pittsburgh region, folks running for municipal office in the Philadelphia region. Because of the so close balance of power, this is going to be one of the more chaotic situations. That’s why the idea of someone coming in and becoming speaker like the Democrat leader is not a slam dunk that Rozzi will be replaced.”
A number of people believe Rozzi will continue to be speaker even after the special elections – including Kauffman.
He said, “I would predict Rozzi to be the speaker for as long as I can see here because there’s no sure fire path to getting a long-term consensus on anyone else.”
Jansen said, “I have such mixed feelings about all this because I really feel like this man is just emotionally unstable.”
Rozzi has a pet project of getting an amendment in the PA constitution that would open the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims so they could file lawsuits against their perpetrators. Rozzi himself is a victim of child sexual abuse.
Jansen said, “His hyper-focus on his one, singular, which he says is the priority for Pennsylvanians, no I’m sorry, I don’t think that is the priority for Pennsylvanians, and that’s the look back, opening of that window, which I feel is going to cause more problems than it’s going to solve, but I guess in a weird way the Keystone Cop screw up by the GOP leadership could end up meaning we don’t get somebody as radical in the speakership, which might have been worse overall and in some weird way they can claim somehow that was a positive move. Oh, it makes my brain scream.”
Kauffman said, “Honestly in two years, hindsight may be 20-20 and we’ll be looking back and saying oh that was a good move or a bad move. We don’t know. Joanna McClinton the Democrat leader from Philadelphia not being the speaker, may be the win. I don’t know. We shall see.”