FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Mark Rozzi
Rep. Mark Rozzi issues statement resigning as House Speaker
HARRISBURG, Feb. 28 – State Rep. Mark Rozzi issued the following statement resigning as Speaker of the House:
“I stand before you today with a feeling of gratitude - and I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your support last week for survivors of childhood sexual assault.
“The start of this session has not been easy – but ultimately, we came together in a bi-partisan fashion for the victims -- and we passed what will be one of the most important pieces of legislation of this session.
“We made it clear that no matter who you are, how much money you have, what standing you have in the community, how long you’ve delayed being caught – if you abused a child in this commonwealth, or if you aided and abetted the perpetrator -- justice is coming for you.
“Making the welfare of children our first order of business this session is something we all can be proud of.
“I wanted to take a moment to share with members, particularly our new members, my story. When I was 13 years old, I was raped by my parish priest. Many of my childhood friends were also raped. Our innocence was stolen from us, and we were left with a lifetime of trauma.
“Not a day goes by where I am not affected by what happened to me, repeatedly, as a boy. Some of my friends aren’t with us anymore. The trauma was too much. Drug and alcohol abuse isn’t uncommon in the survivor community.
“The pain is immeasurable and there are far too few resources available for treatment. We need to do better for our survivor community.
is far more proactive and way more humane to provide survivors with treatment
on the front end rather than deal with the consequences of a lifetime of trauma
on the back end.
“I came to Harrisburg not as an elected official, but as an advocate for victims. When I attended my first rally in the rotunda hosted by representative McGeehan, I was astounded by how few representatives were in attendance.
“Elected officials always talk about being there for our children -- but when it was time to stand up for them, where were they? It was at that moment that i realized that Harrisburg was not actually working for the people but was working for itself.
“I had no desire to become a state representative – and I certainly never imagined being the Speaker of the House. I was living the American dream. I was running a small family business and contributing to my hometown community.
“But I realized that the only way that Harrisburg could be fixed was from the inside. When my good friend representative Dante Santoni decided to step down, I saw my opportunity, and thankfully my community decided to send me to Harrisburg as their state representative.
“From day one my priority has not changed – to provide relief to survivors of childhood sexual assault. But my perspective has changed. While I knew that Harrisburg just worked for itself, i didn’t know how corrupt it actually was.
“I saw firsthand the power of monied special interests. Time and time again, I saw how special interest groups would hold fundraisers for certain members of leadership and how those leaders would refuse to run legislation unfavorable to those special interests.
“I saw campaign dollars prioritized over relief to kids who were raped. But despite being on the inside, as a rank-and-file member there was little I could do to change things.
“That’s why when presented with the opportunity to become speaker of the house, I jumped on it. I thought that finally I would be able to change things. I thought that finally I could place kids above special interests.
“But yet again, my perspective changed.
“Now in a position of leadership, while I can shepherd legislation through the house, I have no control over what the other chamber does. And rather than my leadership being a catalyst to do what is right, it has provided new opportunities for special interests to mettle.
“Knowing my commitment to statute of limitations reform, for the first-time ever, statute of limitations reform has been tied to constitutional amendments dealing with voter ID and regulatory reform.
“Special interests are betting that i will use my position as speaker to force my colleagues to take a single vote on the constitutional amendment that will:
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Provide relief to survivors of childhood sexual assault.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Provide for voter ID.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Provide a legislative veto over executive regulations.
“But if I did that, I’d be contributing to Harrisburg doing more of the same. I’d be furthering a dysfunctional Harrisburg.
“No member should be forced to choose between providing relief to kids who were raped and disenfranchising untold numbers of their fellow Pennsylvanians.
“It was all of these new perspectives that led me to realize that we needed a full overhaul of our house rules. I also knew that the answers to the dysfunction in Harrisburg could not come from Harrisburg – we needed to hear directly from the people.
“As such, myself, and the members of the Speaker’s Workgroup to Move Pennsylvania Forward, went on a statewide listening tour. We traveled from Pittsburgh, to Philadelphia, to State College and to Wilkes-Barre. We heard from hundreds of people confirming what we already knew – Harrisburg is broken.
“But they also gave us a fresh perspective and a renewed spirit that strengthened our resolve to fix Harrisburg. This resulted in the Rozzi Rules that I will be offering in the near future, which I believe will fundamentally change the way we operate moving forward.
“Central to these rules is that a majority of the members of the House, regardless of the political makeup of the majority, should be able to carry the day. Leaders should be first amongst equals – not first above all others.
“I am proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in these two months as Speaker of the House of Representatives. For the first time since speaker Denny O’Brien’s Speaker’s Reform Commission over a decade ago, reform has been at the forefront of discussion in Harrisburg.
“While I’ve done things differently and I’ve undoubtably upset people on both sides of the aisle, I think that was not only needed, but was a sign that I was doing something right.
“Before you is a path to a different Harrisburg – one that can return to our founding principal of government of the people, by the people, for the people, but only if you take the next steps to safeguard it.
“Will you do what is right? Or will you revert back to doing what is politically expedient. Is your ultimate allegiance to the people -- or is it to a political party?
“Look, I know that I was not elected Speaker of the House by the people. The reality is that I only stand at this rostrum because of what is wrong with Harrisburg, not what is right.
“On November 8, 2022, Pennsylvanians voted to send a majority of Democrats to the House of Representatives. Amongst that majority of elected Democrats was:
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>A legend of this chamber, Chairman Tony DeLuca, who was recently deceased;
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Pennsylvania’s first African American lieutenant governor, Austin Davis;
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>And Pennsylvania’s first African American congresswomen, Summer Lee.
“Rather than respecting the loss of a colleague and the historic achievements of others, party politics bore their ugly heads and there was a push to claim an unwon and undeserving temporary majority in the House.
“Fate sometimes has a way of stepping in, however, and when the temporary majority couldn’t elect a Speaker of their own, they attempted to hoodwink the house and elect a member of the other party as Speaker to do their bidding for them.
“What they didn’t count on, however, is that there are good people here in Harrisburg who won’t put self-interest over what is right. I was used as a child and it has tormented me my whole life – I will never allow myself to be used again.
“As previously mentioned, on November 8, 2022 there were historic elections in Pennsylvania – the people elected our first African American lieutenant governor and our first African American congresswoman.
“But that’s not all they did – they elected a Democratic majority of the House expecting that it would result in the first African American female Speaker of the House. On November 15, 2022, i, along with all my democratic colleagues, ratified the will of the people and voted unanimously for the gentlelady from Philadelphia to lead us.
“I voted for the gentlelady not because our policies are in complete alignment, but because I believed she could fix our broken Harrisburg. On November 17, 2021 the gentlelady stood on this floor and made the following remarks:
“Mr. Speaker, we can do better. We must do better. We are mere caretakers of this House of Representatives. We have an obligation to pass this institution on to the next generation in a better condition than we received it. But if we continue down this path, we won’t have an institution to pass on. We will live in nothing more than a tyranny of the majority. Let us return to civility. Let us return to the Democratic process. Let us return to the House of Representatives that Benjamin Franklin entrusted to us. Let us be decent. Let us be deliberative. Let us be collegial and let us be professional. If we can’t do that, if we won’t do everything necessary to achieve that, we are undeserving of the offices that we have been entrusted with. Let’s do better.”
“Joanna, I believe in your words. I believe in you. I, and all Pennsylvanians, are counting on you. I will not allow the allure of power or the trappings of office to keep me from doing what is right. I was not elected by the people for this office, and I will not stand in the way of the woman who was.
“I have said it before and i will say it again – I can count votes and right now the gentlelady from Philadelphia has 101 votes of her Democratic colleagues to be Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“While I have kept to my commitment to serve as an independent speaker, in a few moments i will be resigning my speakership, returning to the Democratic Caucus, and proudly casting the 102nd vote for Speaker for one of the most intelligent and compassionate women I have met in politics, my friend and the hope of this commonwealth, she who will be the first female African American Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, the gentlelady from Philadelphia, Joanna McClinton.
“Madame Chief Clerk, I resign the speakership effective immediately.”