February 24 – The outrage at what’s been happening the Pennsylvania House of Representatives continues and today we heard from PA Representative Jesse Topper.
The House was called back for a special session on Tuesday – not the general session that some believed it would be. This was after weeks of recess and delaying tactics from the current speaker, Mark Rozzi.
Rozzi was voted in as Speaker of the House on swearing in day in January and since then has not had the Chamber do much of anything in the state.
Rozzi’s main goal, apparently is to pass legislation that would open the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases. This has been a pet project for Rozzi, for many years, since he, himself, was a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
On Tuesday, rules for the special session were outlined, which included a requirement of a two thirds majority to amend bills.
Toppers called that “outrageous, completely takes away any of the amendment process of the minority.”
Another rule that was put into place is the inability to remove the speaker – the reason for which should be obvious.
Topper said, “It’s made the House utterly dysfunctional for right now. I’m hoping that once we get through this week that we can get back to some kind of normal operating order. Because this is lunacy.”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM asked, “Do you expect when they do the general session rules for them to actually then listen to any of the recommendations or any of the hype that Mark Rozzi said he wanted to fix some things that he thought were not fair?”
Topper continued, “I do believe that we will go back to normal operating rules next week because I have spoken to several members on the other side of the aisle that will not vote for these rules again. I do believe that because of the nature of the topic, the special election and I’m not even sure that behind the scenes some deal wasn’t cut that once this gets done, Mark steps aside. I don’t know that, but my point is there are members of the other side of the aisle that are also very uncomfortable with the idea of going into general session with these rules. So I do believe that we will get back to more of a normal order.”
With the Democrats having a one-seat majority, anything could go, though.
Topper said, “I’m hopeful that there’s enough members on the other side that are going to say this is just not good government, but we’ll see.”
Jansen pointed out, “There’s changes to the original way that that look-back for child sexual abuse was done. Some of these may have actually happened last September and I’m seeing things now. Do Pennsylvanians realize they’re taking away all sovereign immunity for government entities? And you might say that’s good. We want people to be held accountable, but the civil accountability, which is financial for government entities, like public schools is all going to fall on the taxpayer. You’re not allowed to have a fiscal note attached to this. Do you think voters have any comprehension that this has been changed materially to the point where this could bankrupt the state?”
Topper said, “I’m going to vote against the statute itself. The constitutional amendment, it will be up to the voters. I’m hoping the message gets out to the people so they understand what they’re voting for, but in the end people don’t really have a concept of that. They look at this and they say well then don’t protect childhood rapists and in a sense they’re correct, but they have to understand that it’s not just about who protects them or who doesn’t, it’s who’s on the hook when an organization gets sued.”
Jansen added, “There’s no caps on it either. This is an emotional issue. This is why this should not be an amendment to the constitution. You should not be legislating these kinds of things with an amendment to the constitution because there’s no way to grapple with all these nuances. You just get people emotionally voting for something. I object to this being part of a constitutional amendment.”