HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania House Speaker Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) announced Tuesday that he will step down as Speaker after less than two months, paving the way for Democrat Majority Leader Joanna McClinton (D-Delaware/Philadelphia) to be the next speaker.
McClinton became the first female House Speaker in Pennsylvania history with her election on Tuesday on a party line vote.
“It was almost 250 years before a woman could stand at this desk, not just to give a prayer, but to get the gavel,” McClinton said after being sworn in. “That’s pretty incredible.”
McClinton, 40, a state lawmaker since 2015, grew up in southwest Philadelphia, where she still lives, and attended La Salle University and Villanova Law School. She has worked as a public defender and a state Senate attorney. She had been the Democratic floor leader since 2020, and was also the first woman to hold that position.
“I will not allow the allure of power or the trappings of office to keep me from doing what is right. I was not elected by the people for this office and I will not stand in the way of the woman who was,” Rozzi said in floor remarks. He called McClinton “one of the most intelligent and compassionate women I have met in politics.”
“As a former Speaker of the House, I offer my congratulations to Speaker McClinton and wish her well on this tremendous responsibility,” said Pennsylvania House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster). “After several months of gridlock and a state House of Representatives that has not been working for the people, we are in dire need of a reset. I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle join us in working to move ahead, open the House, and adopt operating rules for the House that we hope will be reflective of the priorities contained in the already-public House Republican rules draft, especially those pertaining to transparency and sexual harassment protections.”
The announcement comes after the House passed a constitutional amendment to open a window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file a civil suit against their alleged abuser past the statute of limitation.
The Senate must still pass that legislation. Rozzi, a survivor of childhood sex abuse, had pledged to not move another legislation in the House until the amendment was passed.
“When that temporary majority couldn’t elect a speaker of their own, they attempted to hoodwink the house and elect a member of the other party as speaker and do their bidding for them,” said Rozzi on Tuesday. “What they didn’t count on however was that there are good people in Harrisburg who won’t put self interest over what is right. I was used as a child and it has tormented me my entire life and I will never allow myself to be used again.”
Rozzi was elected as a state representative for the 126th legislative district of Pennsylvania in November 2012, and promised to act as an independent speaker of the house.
The House was in stalemate for several weeks as Rozzi and House leaders worked to pass the sex abuse window legislation. Rozzi led a statewide listening tour and worked to pass the “Rozzi Rules” in the House.
Rozzi said his own rules proposal, developed after holding several public hearings around the state to gather suggestions, will be made public “in the near future.” A woman lobbyist’s account of being sexually harassed by an unnamed House Democrat, told publicly during one of Rozzi’s meetings, is fueling interest in allowing people who don’t work for the Legislature to be able to file formal sexual misconduct complaints with the House.
The Associated Press contributed to this report