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The People Have Spoken: House Speaker Mark Rozzi to Introduce New House Rules Based on Constituent Feedback

Mark Rozzi

Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Mark Rozzi is photographed at the speaker's podium, Jan. 3, 2023, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. When lawmakers convened to take oaths of office and pick a speaker, a deadlock was broken only when all seven members of GOP leadership and nine other Republicans joined all Democrats to elect Rep. Mark Rozzi, of the Reading area, as House speaker. Rozzi promised to act as an independent, saying he would caucus with neither party. (AP Photo/Matt Smith, file)

By Ashley Adams

February 23, 2023

When the state House reconvenes next week, Speaker Mark Rozzi plans to introduce new operating rules addressing constitutional amendments and the ability of majority leaders to hold legislation hostage.

With the Pennsylvania House of Representatives set to return to regular session next week, Speaker Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) plans to introduce the “Rozzi Rules,” which include proposed changes to the House’s operating rules.

The “Rozzi Rules” are a product of a work group of six House members — three from each party — that embarked on a listening tour of the commonwealth seeking input from the public and government groups. The purpose of the tour, according to Rozzi, was to get a clearer idea of how to heal the divide in the House and come up with a fair set of rules. 

The House operating rules dictate the composition of committees and the process for introducing and passing legislation. The rules are voted on by all members of the House and must pass by a simple majority. Without rules in place, the House can’t function. Normally, lawmakers approve these rules on the first day of a new session. That wasn’t the case at the start of the current session last month.

“While many politicians talk the talk about good governance, I intend to walk the walk,” Rozzi said in a statement. “When the House returns to regular session next week, I plan to introduce the Rozzi Rules, rules that will fix many of the issues that have prevented a majority of the members from passing good legislation, will give a voice to the minority, and will address several other issues that were raised on our listening tour.”

Two of the changes Rozzi intends to propose involve constitutional amendments. One seeks to prevent constitutional amendments from being placed on the primary ballot. The other is a House-originated bill proposing that a constitutional amendment can only include one subject. 

Both proposed rules would appear to be a reaction to recent Republican strategy.

Last month, Republicans in the state Senate passed a bill containing three unrelated proposed amendments that included requiring voters to show ID at the poll for all elections, limiting the governor’s veto power, and establishing a civil suit window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Last summer, Senate Republicans attempted to lump five different but significant changes to the state constitution into one proposal, one of which was an abortion ban. 

In addition to proposed rules regarding constitutional amendments, the “Rozzi Rules” propose the following changes: 

  • Fixing the discharge process so that a committee chairperson cannot hold legislation hostage from a majority of the House.
  • Fixing the special order of business process so that a leader cannot hold legislation hostage from a majority in the House.
  • Making committee composition more proportional between the parties than ever before.
  • Providing for increased protection against sexual harassment and discrimination in the House.

Author

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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