How on earth can the rules of the PA House of Representatives be decided by a listening tour?

January 23 – Do you feel qualified to make the rules for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives? Yes, you, reading these words right now. 

The rules are how the House will conduct business. They are typically ironed out on swearing in day and usually are done by the party in charge. 

Could YOU help make those rules? Do you maybe want to take a quick look at your Social Studies notes from 11th grade? 

Isn’t part of a representative democracy the fact that our chosen leaders are representing us? We put people in the positions to do the job to run the country, state or municipality. Shouldn’t the rules be their job to decide? 

Well, not according to the new Speaker of the House in Pennsylvania, Mark Rozzi. 

To call the PA House a train wreck right now would be an understatement. 

Here is (as brief as we can make it) a recap of what happened:

When the representatives arrived in Harrisburg on swearing in day earlier this month, there were 101 Republicans and 99 Democrats physically present. Three Democrat seats were vacant because of a death and changes in political positions. 

Right after the swearing in, the Democrats in the PA House called for an adjournment of the Chamber until February – after the special elections to fill those three vacant seats, presumably because then the Democrats would have the majority. 

Because the vote for adjournment resulted in a 100-100 tie, Republican leadership in the House nominated Democrat Representative Rozzi from Berks County to be speaker, much to the shock of just about everyone in the Chamber. Apparently, Rozzi had said if he was speaker he would switch to an Independent. That has not yet happened. 

Rozzi was voted in as speaker on a 115-85 vote.

And now, here we are with nothing getting done in the PA House and the PA Senate deciding to recess until the end of February. 

Oh, and the paychecks are still being cut. 

But, fear not! The new speaker has a plan. Rozzi wants to go on a listening tour throughout Pennsylvania to see how the people would fix the House and what they think would be fair rules for the House to conduct business. 

That’s actually not a joke. A press release was issued last week. 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “Mark Rozzi could not have proved himself to be a more unstable and out of touch human being than his decision to go on a listening tour to figure out the rules of the House.”

Rozzi has been backing a bill to make it easier for victims of child sexual abuse to bring charges and file lawsuits against the perpetrators from years ago. He was a victim of child sexual abuse himself. That seems to be his modus operandi for all of this. 

Jansen said, “His so called solution is very controversial and I don’t believe is going to get justice. I think it’s actually going to cause a lot of injustice and cost the state a ton of money, put our schools and other institutions in all kinds of legal jeopardy. He says it’s getting to the truth. No, it’s not getting to the truth when you eliminate the statutes of limitation. You’re not going to be getting the truth at all, I don’t believe.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM added, “The end result of this could be equal or more money paid out that equaled the budget of Pennsylvania overall – $40, $50 billion in payouts.” 

Jansen said, “$32 billion just for the schools alone. That doesn’t cover all the rest of the entities.” 

Ryan continued, “You know who’s going to make bank on this? It’s not going to be Rozzi. It’s going to be lawyers.” 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll agreed, “Lawyers will clean up on this. Insurance companies are going to have all sorts of exposure. If some of these financial damage projections are accurate, ultimately it’s all of us that pay. The public is the ones that will pay for this, particularly when you’re talking about liability with public school districts because that money has to come from somewhere.” 

The listening tour will include the Speaker’s Workgroup, consisting of three Republicans and three Democrats to help make the rules for the House. 

Ryan added, “How much is this fool going to put at the taxpayer’s expense here? I’ve got to pay your hotel rooms and your per diems and all of this nonsense here.” 

Jansen said, “There’s no way logically you’re going to get the public to give you solutions to the problems he’s talking about. It’s absolutely asinine. He just wants a platform to keep trumping this idea of an amendment that’s getting more and more controversial as we see how much it’s going to cost.” 

The first night of the listening tour will be Wednesday in Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. It’s not clear how many more stops will be made. 

Barkdoll said, “I think this goes back to what we’ve said from square one: delay, delay, delay. This tour creates a façade or an appearance that there’s work going on, even though we know the House is effectively doing nothing. They’re in this total state of paralysis because they’re not able to get the rules resolved and to the extent this listening tour might include input on what the rules for the House should be, this is completely inside baseball. They’re not going to have a bunch of people showing up giving advice to this panel on how the House should more effectively operate. I think this group could get embarrassed. They could show up at some of these venues and have virtually empty rooms.” 

Apparently on Wednesday, an interest group is planning on showing up. 

Keep in mind, it’s about two weeks until the special elections will be held to fill those three Democrat seats in the House. 

Barkdoll suggested, “If Rozzi can just run out the clock for two weeks with this listening tour, which I think he probably will do, Democrats win those three seats, he can immediately step down. Democrats would have a one-seat majority and they can elect Joanna McClinton as speaker and then that new majority could just reset all of the new rules and go from there.” 

Jansen said, “Republicans really blew it. They had an opportunity to at least set the rules and hopefully get the amendments in for voter ID. What’s pretty repulsive was Rozzi’s comments about those amendments. Calling his amendment justice and truth and calling the amendment for voter ID, which the vast majority of Pennsylvanians support, just a ruse to try to deny people voting, make it harder for people to vote. He’s certainly not going to be any kind of an objective person, obviously. I think you’re right, he’s running out the clock and I think they will have the right activist groups show up at these so-called listening tour things just to promote his particular obsession with getting I think revenge on the institutions he blames for his own victimization. What’s really repulsively worse, look at the media coverage of this. Nobody’s covering this. They’re covering it very gently. They’re acting like there’s nothing that abnormal about this, which only shows you the bias of the media. They’re exposed I think through this.” 

Ryan said, “Nothing’s happening with your Senate. They’re on recess. Nothing’s happening with your House. They’re in disarray. Everybody’s getting paid here.”

Jansen asked, “Why are we paying them for doing nothing?” 

Ryan continued, “Nothing is getting done. The money is flowing out of the state. Now we’re going on this fabulous tour here.”

Barkdoll said, “We’re going weeks if not months with our full-time legislature essentially not in session, able to do anything. Until the House can get these rules passed, this situation could go on for quite some time.”