(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania’s stalled special session gets a second chance on Tuesday when House lawmakers return to the chamber floor after a month-long break.
In an email sent Friday afternoon, House leadership canceled three regular session days scheduled for Monday through Wednesday and substituted four special session days in their place, lasting Tuesday through Friday.
House Speaker Mark Rozzi, D-Temple, told The Center Square on Friday he called the special session to “fulfill the previous governor’s request and ensure victims of childhood sexual assault get the justice they deserve as we finalize our general House rules.”
Rozzi’s comments reference former Gov. Tom Wolf’s call for a special session of the General Assembly on Jan. 9 to cement a deal that would open a two-year retroactive window for adult survivors to sue their abusers in civil court. Rozzi and his Democratic colleagues want both a constitutional amendment and standalone legislation approved before moving on with the rest of the chamber’s business.
Back in January, the Senate gaveled in and out of the special session within minutes, then immediately convened a regular session to adopt a resolution that advanced three constitutional amendments: voter ID and reforms to both the statute of limitations and the state’s regulatory processes.
Democrats viewed the move as a poison pill that forced them to reject the resolution outright, despite unanimously supporting statute of limitations reform.
Senate Republicans, however, said residents deserve the chance to vote on all three amendments and dismissed a standalone bill – instead of a ballot referendum – as a legal quagmire unworthy of the risk.
Meanwhile, negotiations between Republican and Democratic leaders in the House failed to produce a compromise on operating rules that prevented the chamber from organizing and voting. The confluence of disputes unraveled a packed session calendar and stalled the General Assembly for five weeks.
The matter was complicated by a narrow split in the House that gave Republicans a functional one-seat majority until Feb. 7, when Democrats swept three special elections in Pittsburgh. Now, with a 102-101 majority cemented, Rozzi and his caucus have the upper hand in negotiations over rules, controlling the voting schedule and reconvening session – whether it be special or regular.
Rozzi’s office said the change in schedule will not impact swearing-in ceremonies for the three newly-elected Democratic representatives.
An attempt to contact House Republicans for comment on the last-minute change was unsuccessful Friday.
Christen Smith is the Pennsylvania News Editor for The Center Square and brings with her more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues from all angles. She’s a Pennsylvania State University alumna and has been published in the The Washington Examiner, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, RealClear and Broad+Liberty, among others.
This article was republished with permission from The Center Square.