PA Speaker of the House locks the doors to the Chamber

January 11 – Reports have been coming out that the new Speaker of the House of Representatives in Pennsylvania, Mark Rozzi, is going to begin locking the doors of the House. 

Keep in mind, Rozzi was nominated for speaker during a rather turbulent swearing in day on January 3 when he told Republican leadership in the House he would change from a Democrat to an Independent. 

It’s now doubtful that will happen. 

Apparently on Monday, the House Republicans took a picture of all their members in the Chamber, but no Democrats are there. The Republicans posted it saying we’re all ready to work – where are the Democrats? 

Then the House Democrats posted an email from Jake Smeltz, Chief of Staff for the Republican leader in the PA House from 4 p.m. on Monday saying the two sides are too far apart and couldn’t meet. 

The group then took the picture, which prompted Rozzi to make a statement of a breach of decorum and ordered the doors locked when the House is not in session. 

According to Rozzi’s statement, “On the evening of Monday, January 9, 2023, decorum was breached when a caucus used the Chamber for a publicity stunt. The House of Representatives is a sacred Chamber to be used for conducting the people’s business, not for partisan gamesmanship. To prevent future breaches of decorum, I have ordered the doors of the House to be locked when the House is not in session.”

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “It’s not really clear what was going here. It really does seem like there was some gamesmanship on both sides. A lot of people are pointing out that over the years people have gone in there, whether it’s tours, field trips, other interest groups have gone onto that floor when they’re out of session and it’s often a place that people want to see. He’s kind of just issuing these statements in a vacuum.”  

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “He (Rozzi) sent out an email telling all 203 House members he will order the House doors locked when not in session after the GOP staged a photo. This is what’s important right now? From everything we’re hearing, he’s gone silent. He’s not meeting with GOP leaders. He’s not talking about the deal they supposedly cut. He’s given different story versions of what he said he would do. Our state has been thrown into chaos essentially because we don’t understand who’s going to be in charge. It really puts uncertainty over the whole thing. He’s making a big deal out of pictures being taken on the floor of the House and saying he’s going to lock the doors.” 

Barkdoll said, “There is just major dysfunction in the Pennsylvania House right now.”

The House is currently out of session and there’s nothing scheduled to have them return to session. 

Barkdoll said, “Rozzi has said that he’s not going to allow one bill to make it to the floor until they take up and vote on this sex assault statute of limitations expansion.” 

The statute has been a project for Rozzi for years and would reopen the statute of limitations window for child sexual abuse victims. He himself was a victim of child sexual assault, so there’s a lot of emotion surrounding this for him. 

State Senator Doug Mastriano suggested, “This lock out I think is to prevent a motion to vacate the seat and call the question as far as removing the speaker. I think this is all a dodge for him to retain his seat by not allowing a quorum and not allowing people access. It seems to be a game to retain power.” 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “This guy is out of control. In fact I left him a message. I’ve asked him to step down.” 

Along with the statute for sexual abuse, there are two other amendments included in the bill. One is to take away the governor’s ability to veto the general assembly’s disapproval of regulation and the other has to do with voter ID. 

Jansen said, “Call your Senator today and tell them don’t you dare allow anything to go forward that doesn’t include those two, along with this look back for sexual abuse.” 

Ryan said, “All the leadership have let this state down here and the backroom deals couldn’t be more clear here. They’ve all got to go. They should all resign in disgrace in the House.” 

Barkdoll added, “We don’t know the extent of what these backroom deals might have been because no one is really talking, they’re not doing interviews. That’s why everyone is left to speculate as to what’s going on.”