Jan 3, 2023 - News

Pennsylvania House elects Rep. Mark Rozzi as new speaker

Visitors enter the Capital before legislators of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are sworn-in.

Legislators were sworn-in to the Pennsylvania House on Tuesday. Photo: Matt Smith/AP Photo

When all eyes were on the U.S. House Tuesday, another power struggle played out in Pennsylvania.

Driving the news: After months of uncertainty and political fighting, state lawmakers elected Democratic Rep. Mark Rozzi of Berks County as the next House speaker on Tuesday.

  • Democrats and a few Republicans secured Rozzi's surprise 115-85 win against Republican Carl Walker Metzgar.

Why it matters: Democrats have regained control of the state House for the first time since 2010, which could help further the legislative agenda of Democratic Governor-elect Josh Shaprio, who will face a Senate long controlled by the GOP when sworn in later this month.

Yes, but: Rozzi pledged on the House floor Tuesday not to caucus with either party as House speaker.

  • He said that as the "commonwealth's first independent speaker" he'll work to help rebuild trust in the chamber.
  • "Sometimes Republicans will win; sometimes Democrats will win," Rozzi said.

Context: House Democrats eked out an unexpected majority in November's election — winning 102 seats compared to Republicans' 101.

  • But Republicans hold a functional majority of 101-99 due to a trio of Democratic vacancies, which has fueled questions over the last two months over who will lead the House.
  • Both Democrats and Republicans claimed power and elected their own interim speaker.

Between the lines: By coalescing around Rozzi, Democrats jettisoned their first choice for speaker, Rep. Joanna McClinton, who represents parts of South and Southwest Philly.

  • McClinton would have been the first woman to wield the House gavel.

Of note: In the lead up to Tuesday, Republicans were considering using their short-lived majority to advance a pair of controversial constitutional amendments, which include voter ID requirements, per Spotlight PA.

What's ahead: Rozzi is expected to ultimately decide when to hold special elections for the Democratic vacancies, which must be no later than May.

  • House Republicans filed a lawsuit last month to block the special elections Democrats had scheduled for February. House Republican leader Bryan Cutler had filed for two special elections to be held in May. Litigation is ongoing.
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