Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, a compromise pick to be speaker of the Pennsylvania House amid a political battle over narrow majorities changing hands, announced Tuesday that he was stepping down as Speaker two months after taking the job.
Rozzi led the support for the Democrat’s original pick to be speaker, Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, who won the election in the chamber shortly after he gave up his post.
The move comes after the House passed a constitutional amendment to open a window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file a civil suit against their alleged abuser, a signature piece of legislation for a man who said he was abused by a Catholic priest as a teen.
“From day one, my priority has not changed: To provide relief for survivors of childhood sexual assault,” Rozzi said in the chamber as he announced he was giving up his post. “But, my perspective has changed. While I knew Harrisburg just worked for itself, I didn’t know how corrupt it actually was.”
Rozzi was a surprise choice for speaker on the first day of the session in January when both parties claimed majorities coming into the session.
Rozzi was nominated by Rep. Jim Gregory, R-Blair, based on their work passing the abuse reform amendment. Republicans, having a 101-99 working majority while Democrats waited for three Pittsburgh-area seats to be re-filled via special elections in Democrat-safe seats, felt Rozzi would change his party to unaffiliated in order to get their support. Instead, Rozzi remained a Democrat, leading Gregory to denounce their broken trust and asked for his resignation.
“As former speaker of the House and the twice-elected leader of the House Republican Caucus, I know that trust is the basis of a successful legislative leader and provides the ability to move our chamber forward, Unfortunately, despite the attempt to find a unique solution for an evenly divided House, Rep. Rozzi openly broke that trust essentially from the moment he was elected.”
Rozzi admitted to Spotlight PA before his announcement he was stepping down that he went into the deal aware that Republicans were trying to use him, and he decided that they “were gonna pay for it.”
“Party politics bore their ugly heads and there was a push to claim an unwon and undeserving temporary majority in the House, I was used as a child and it has tormented me my entire life. I will never allow myself to be used again.”
Rozzi sought to come up with a rules package that give all lawmakers, rather than leaders and committee chairs, more say in policymaking and went around the state seeking public opinion on the matter. The chaos shut down the chamber for weeks until the special elections were held.
Though his office provided a summary of what he wanted to propose, Rozzi never publicly released his proposal before stepping down.
Republicans nominated Rep. Carl Metzgar of Somerset County, their original choice prior to the Rozzi compromise in January. The final vote was 102 votes for McClinton and 99 for Metzgar, with two members absent.
As for the abuse lawsuit window bills that passed the House last week, both remain untouched by the Senate.
Republican leadership there said the House should have voted instead for the bill they passed in January. Democrats have found it unpalatable because the bill also included amendment proposals for voter ID and regulation reform.