Pennsylvania Republican House Leaders Discuss Speaker’s Stalling Reconvening of Session, Failure to Investigate Harassment

Pennsylvania state House Republicans on Monday excoriated their Democratic counterparts for failing to reconvene and failing to start investigating sexual-harassment allegations against a Democratic House member. 

Republicans have blasted Speaker Mark Rozzi (D-Temple) for dragging out the process of finalizing operating rules and bringing the House of Representatives back into session. The speaker, whose party holds a majority of seats, initially said he would only agree to allow legislation to be considered once the House voted on a measure allowing adults victims of sexual abuse to sue their alleged predators despite the statute of limitations. The House passed such legislation last week. 

The chamber was scheduled to reconvene Monday but Rozzi cancelled proceedings and, at this writing, has not indicated whether he will bring the House back into session on Tuesday or Wednesday. 

“We left Harrisburg last week prepared for regular session,” House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Quarryville) told reporters at the State Capitol building on Monday. “We were excited about that prospect; we finally saw an outline of the rules proposed by Speaker Rozzi and were anticipating working on issues facing the commonwealth. Instead, today, voting session was cancelled and we are once again in a waiting game while nothing gets done.” 

Cutler, who served as House Speaker last session when his party enjoyed a majority, said the House needs to return to full operation to address the ongoing concerns about the train derailment and subsequent toxic-chemical incineration in East Palestine, Ohio near Beaver and Lawrence counties. He said the chamber also needs to promptly position itself to react to a Commonwealth Court ruling forcing lawmakers to throughly revise the state’s public-school funding formula. 

Another matter he and several colleagues have asked House Democratic leadership to handle is the allegation by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) lobbyist Andi Perez that a male House member sexually harassed her. Perez said the legislator, who has not yet been named publicly, touched her without her consent and did not stop after she pulled away from him. The SEIU representative has asked Rozzi to support broadening state House policies to allow nonmembers to report allegations of harassment to House leadership. 

Representative Martina White (R-Philadelphia), who serves as Republican Caucus Secretary, said on Monday she sent Rozzi and Majority Leader Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) a letter asking them to commence an investigation and to request that the accused member resign. White said she has received no response from either of them yet. She furthermore noted McClinton has discouraged the swift formation of an Ethics Committee that could undertake an investigation, the Democratic leader having suggested “now is not the time.” 

“I unequivocally disagree; this is absolutely the time,” White said. “It is always the right time to seek justice for victims. We cannot allow a predator to feel emboldened by the speaker and Leader McClinton’s inaction and be free to potentially harass another person. How many victims are the Democrats willing to allow in order to preserve their power?”

House Democrats issued a response to the GOP press conference, insisting that the Republicans who controlled the chamber for many years did nothing to expand the power of House leadership to probe accusations of sexual misconduct. 

“Following last week’s passage of bipartisan bills to provide justice to survivors of child sexual abuse, the House Democratic Caucus is focused on passing House Operating Rules,” the House Democratic Caucus said in a statement. “These rules will include a provision to ensure a clear process for all those whose business requires engaging with House members to report that they’ve been harassed or experienced discrimination. Republicans who controlled the House for 24 of the past 27 years had every opportunity to pass these protections and failed to do so.”

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Bryan Cutler” by PA State Rep. Bryan Cutler. Photo “Mark Rozzi” by Rep. Mark Rozzi. Background Photo “Pennsylvania State Capitol” by Ad Meskens. CC BY-SA 3.0.


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