January 25 – At this point in Pennsylvania politics, the headlines seem like a punchline, but they are actually all too real.
After the Pennsylvania Senate announced they will be recessing until February 27, the PA House – the Chamber that technically started all of this – announced yesterday they will be recessed until the same time.
Keep in mind, paychecks are still very much being cut for full-time lawmakers in Pennsylvania who aren’t making laws. At all.
A quick recap takes us back to swearing in day in the PA House when control of the Chamber was up for grabs. There were technically 101 Republicans and 99 Democrats physically present that day with three Democrat seats empty because of a death and two members taking other positions.
Special elections in February will fill those seats – and the predictions are they will be Democrat, which would give the party a one-seat majority in the House.
Republican leaders, seemingly out of nowhere on January 3, nominated Democrat Mark Rozzi to be Speaker of the House. It was a move that shocked almost everyone in the Chamber. He was voted in on a 115-85 vote.
Apparently, Rozzi had said if he was speaker, he would change his party affiliation to Independent – a move that has yet to happen.
Now, with the push and pull over power in the House, the Chamber has announced it will recess until the end of February.
Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “We’re at least a month away before anyone goes back into session.”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “We have to be realistic here. What’s going on? They have all thrown up their hands and said we know what the plan is now. They’re going to run out the clock. Democrats are going to take majority of the House. They’re going to put in the speaker they want is my prediction, which will be Joanna McClinton and Republicans blew their chance to have any influence early here in the session with their idiotic decision. I don’t know how they don’t change the leadership completely in the House when it comes to the Republicans.”
In addition, Rozzi has created 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. The tour includes six representatives Rozzi chose to be the Speaker’s Workgroup, consisting of three Republicans and three Democrats to help make the rules for the House.
Rozzi – even prior to the speaker vote – has been pushing for a constitutional amendment in PA to increase the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse to be able to file lawsuits against perpetrators. Rozzi himself was a victim of sexual abuse as a child.
Jansen said, the amendment is Rozzi’s “version of justice for past sexual abuse for children. How somebody could be allowed to have this much influence over what’s going on in our state when he’s too close to this problem and he’s obviously blinded by his own feelings of victimization and desire I think to get revenge on who he thinks is responsible for what happened to him. He’s just going to have a lovely little platform now to go around and tout about that. This is ridiculous. We are the laughing stock of the country between that and who we put in as Senator for this state. Republicans, especially, but Pennsylvanians, come on. We deserve better leadership in this state.”
The listening tour will kick off tonight in Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The group will then move to Philadelphia on Friday. Another stop in Wilkes Barre is planned, but the date has not been announced.
Barkdoll said, “This whole strategy, the delay, delay, delay, it’s just like we wrote the script. February 27 is three weeks after those special elections. I think what they’ll do is they’ll reconvene on the 27th and on that day or in the interim, Rozzi steps down, they elect McClinton. Democrats then will control all of the committees in the House and they’ll move forward.”
State Senator Doug Mastriano said, “This whole thing here is a power grab and it’s a delaying action. Rozzi with his little speaking tour, which is ridiculous nonsense. Get to work. Get to Harrisburg, open up those doors and get to work and let’s do the people’s work and bidding. Can you imagine if the Republicans did this? There’d be outrage in the media. They would not be able to live it down, but since it’s the same team, the media is largely is looking the other way or ignoring it or talking it down. This is simply a way to shut down business until they have a full majority.”
The PA Senate had planned to try to get legislation through before the special elections on the idea that the Republicans would control the House for that month-long window, according to Mastriano.
He said, “Leave to Republicans to bungle it.”
Jansen said, “I don’t know understand why there’s not more demands for the leadership to change in the House in the GOP. They tried to do a reorganization before the end of the year. That was rejected. If we had had different people at that leadership, I don’t think that ever would have happened. It’s pretty disappointing.”
What can a taxpayer do if both Chambers are on recess?
Mastriano suggested, “Contact the Speaker of the House and demand, politely, but demand that he gets back to work and stops playing these political games right here. Demand that they get to work. We can move legislation. It’s not going to go anywhere. It’s just going to sit in purgatory. We need the House back to work and the Democrats have shut it down.”
Jansen said, “The Republican Party needs to change the way it’s being run.”