Jim Gregory nominated and voted for Mark Rozzi as House speaker last week. On Monday, Gregory called for Rozzi’s resignation, saying he is “waffling” on a promise to switch from Democrat to Independent.
It’s not even a week into the new legislative session for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and already another surprising twist is unfolding.
Rep. Jim Gregory (R-Blair), who last Tuesday nominated and voted for Democratic Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) to serve as speaker, wrote him Monday to say Rozzi was waffling on whether he will register as an independent and therefore should resign.
In his acceptance speech, Rozzi vowed to be independent of Democrats and Republicans, including not caucusing with either party. He made no mention of switching his party affiliation to Independent.
Gregory confirmed the letter, first reported in a tweet by Spotlight PA, in a brief interview in his Capitol office Monday. Gregory declined to elaborate but said Rozzi’s statement regarding his party registration status came in a phone conversation the two men had on Saturday.
Gregory’s letter said that “it was with great sadness for me as your friend that you would admit to me Saturday that you are only thinking about switching.”
Gregory wrote that Rozzi’s “words directly contradicted your previous three affirmative answers to me of ‘yes’ that you were going to switch to independent. You made a commitment to uphold your promise to me, to the members of this body, and to the people of Pennsylvania.”
The letter from Gregory who has worked closely with Rozzi on child sexual abuse issues, said “bonds of trust between friends — as close as you and I have been — are now broken.”
Rozzi isn’t legally obligated to resign.
The split became public as lawmakers in the House and Senate began a special session, called by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, designed to get a referendum allowing a two-year window for otherwise outdated child sexual abuse lawsuits before voters for final approval in the May primary.
Gregory and Rozzi have both spoken of being abused as children. The proposed amendment passed last session and needs to be approved by both the House and Senate again before going before voters for final approval.
When the special session was announced last week, Rozzi said “the House will consider no other legislation until the General Assembly passes” the amendment for the second time.
But the special session got off to a slow start Monday in both chambers and it was not clear whether the House will conduct much business before special elections are held to fill three vacant Democratic-leaning seats in the chamber. With those seats vacant, Republicans have a 101-99 advantage, with one incumbent GOP member running in a Jan. 31 state Senate special election.
Rozzi announced Monday the creation of a committee of three Republicans and three Democrats to try to make headway on the amendment before the May primary.
“Make no mistake: we must pass the Statute of Limitations reform,” Rozzi said in a statement. “History will not judge us based on how many Democratic party wins or Republican party wins we achieve, but we will be judged based on what we did for the children of this Commonwealth.”
Rozzi was the surprise choice as speaker last week. Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) was reported to be the Democrat’s top choice for speaker going into the new session. The speakership vote was 115-85, with all seven members of GOP leadership, Gregory and eight other Republicans joining all Democrats.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.
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