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HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania House picked state Rep. Mark Rozzi to be the chamber’s new speaker Tuesday in a surprise vote.
Here are the basics about the Berks County lawmaker, how he became speaker, and more.
Last updated: Jan. 4, 2 p.m.
Who is Mark Rozzi?
Mark Rozzi is a state representative from Berks County who was first elected in 2012.
He is a prominent advocate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, having been raped by a Catholic priest when he was 13. He supports creating a retroactive two-year window for survivors to bring civil lawsuits.
Spotlight PA will have more on Rozzi’s record in the coming days.
Rozzi is a registered Democrat, but on Tuesday he said he would be an independent speaker. More on that below.
How did Mark Rozzi become House speaker?
The simple answer: He won a majority of votes, 115 to his only competitor’s 85.
All Democrats voted for Rozzi as did 16 Republicans including those who hold leadership positions:
Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County (leader)
Sheryl Delozier of Cumberland County (caucus administrator)
George Dunbar of Westmoreland County (caucus chairman)
Jim Gregory of Blair County
Seth Grove of York County (Appropriations chair)
Doyle Heffley of Carbon County
Joe Hogan of Bucks County
Josh Kail of Beaver County (policy committee chair)
Andrew Kuzma of Allegheny County
Kristin Marcell of Bucks County
Tom Mehaffie of Dauphin County
Tim O’Neal of Washington County (whip)
Donna Oberlander of Clarion County
Stephenie Scialabba of Butler County
Kathleen Tomlinson of Bucks County
Martina White of Philadelphia (caucus secretary)
The more complicated answer is still emerging.
Rozzi’s name was not floated publicly as a choice for speaker. He was nominated by state Rep. Jim Gregory (R., Blair), who is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and has worked closely with Rozzi on the issue.
Gregory told Spotlight PA he and Rozzi had discussed the option of Rozzi running for speaker for “months.” But he said he didn’t bring the idea to his party leaders until around 2:30 Tuesday afternoon, when the chamber appeared on the verge of recessing without choosing a speaker.
“They were not aware,” Gregory said. “I made a suggestion to them. ‘Go to Mark Rozzi, I think you might be able to do it.’ And they did.”
Spotlight PA will have a behind-the-scenes story soon.
Will Mark Rozzi stay a registered Democrat?
That depends on who you ask.
Democrats including Appropriations Chair Matt Bradford said Rozzi privately assured the caucus he was still a Democrat.
Republican leaders, meanwhile, say Rozzi “pledged to become an independent,” which would give the chamber a 101-101-1 split when at full complement.
“We spoke to Speaker Rozzi yesterday after session and we continue to believe what he committed to publicly in his address and what he promised to our leaders privately about fully becoming an independent has not changed,” state Rep. Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster) said. “We continue to believe having a fully independent speaker is the best path forward given the realities of this session.”
Rozzi declined to say anything about his registration Tuesday. He did state that he will not caucus with either party.
Who is Joanna McClinton?
Joanna McClinton is a state representative from Philadelphia. Until Tuesday afternoon, Democrats said McClinton would be their only nominee and pick for speaker.
McClinton served as minority leader for the caucus last session and she will continue to lead them this year. After his nomination, McClinton threw her support behind Rozzi on Tuesday and said her caucus would do the same.
She declined to answer questions about whether she would support Rozzi serving as speaker for the entire two-year session.
Does this change when the special elections will be held?
Three seats previously held by Democrats are currently vacant.
Legislative leaders have been sparing over when exactly two of those elections should take place. Democrats want to fill all three seats in early February, while Republicans argue two elections should be held in May at the same time as the off-year primary.
The matter is currently being considered by the state’s appellate courts, and a hearing on the matter is scheduled for Jan. 11.
But that case may no longer matter.
As speaker, Rozzi has the power to set the dates of special elections. He issued new paperwork late Tuesday affirming previous orders from McClinton that set Feb. 7 as the date for the disputed special elections.
A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of State confirmed the agency had received the paperwork, but declined to comment further because of the ongoing lawsuit.
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