(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania lawmakers traditionally spend weeks off in their counties, but this time the “work” of constituent relations appears to be contentious even in the tightly divided House.
In one corner, Republicans are protesting loudly and often that House Speaker Mark Rozzi, D-Temple, and the rest of his party will not be showing up for work. After all, they argue, it was his decision to adjourn the session until the last day of February, meaning almost two months without any legislative action – or even operational regulations.
“From education reform to the proposed constitutional amendments, we must act quickly to enact measures that people have been desperately asking for us to cross the finish line,” said Josh Kail, R-Beaver, House Republican Policy Committee chairman, am Monday. “It’s time for Democrats to join the House Republican caucus to get back to work.”
On the other hand, House Democrats are seeing a likely one-seat majority for the first time in a decade, and with it the power to advance legislative priorities long ignored by their Republican counterparts — issues their party believes residents should care about are most important.
Nicole Reigelman, spokeswoman for the House Democrats, said Center Square members are “busy” engaging with constituents and advocacy groups in their districts. Many others have attended public hearings that are “important to the people and communities our caucus represents.”
“Claims that members of the House are not working are false,” she said. “Magnanimity and pointless claims of being ‘incapacitated’ because the legislature is not in session are counterproductive and disingenuous.”
Some, like members of the Derry Township Advocates for Transparency and Freedom, blame Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Hershey for sinking his party’s last-ditch effort force a session recall against Rozzi’s wishes.
A lawmaker source recently told The Center Square that the sole holdout also opposed the Republicans’ choice of House Speaker — the highest-ranking position in the House — in favor of Rozzi.
Mehaffie responded to criticism last week that he would “always prefer cooperation to chaos” in his role as state representative. It wasn’t enough to deter attorneys’ protest Wednesday outside his Hershey office.
Paul Muschick, columnist for The Morning Call, attacked Rozzi directly on January 26 Article where he noted that taxpayers will spend $3.4 million through Feb. 27 to pay House lawmakers’ salaries for taking “sinister squats.”
“Rozzi has put the House of Representatives on hold so he can travel across the state and host a ridiculous ‘listening tour’ to gather feedback from the public on what rules the House of Representatives should operate under,” he said. “And he created one cross-party representative body negotiate terms. It’s all just a smokescreen.”
Bill White, another The Morning Call columnist, said it was Republicans who should be ashamed. in a (n Article published Jan. 21, he pointed to the dispute underlying the chamber’s deadlock over operating rules: three constitutional amendments the party knows two will never make it to the ballot once Democrats control the House.
Chief among the proposed changes is a two-year window, giving adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse two years to sue their abusers in civil courts. Rozzi has refused to move the House forward until it votes on the proposal.
But in the Senate, the Republican majority passed a resolution bunch the amendment with two others that would enact voter ID and regulatory reform.
They argued that voters deserve the final say on these issues, too, and called on Democrats to “fear” the results.
White described the decision as “the latest demonstration of her allegiance to twisted priorities.”
“Survivors of child sexual abuse in Pennsylvania have been disappointed so many times that another setback shouldn’t come as a surprise,” he said. “But that doesn’t make it any less despicable.”