Pennsylvania House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Quarryville) is seeking answers regarding what he terms a major security infraction on the part of House Speaker Mark Rozzi (D-Temple).
Rozzi was elected speaker with the support of all Democrats and 16 Republicans in the state House of Representatives as part of a deal Cutler said would entail the Berks County representative re-registering as an independent and caucusing with neither party. The speaker has since declined to lose his party affiliation and chose to adjourn session until later this month. Rozzi’s decision disempowers Republicans who, had they been in session, would have enjoyed a few weeks with a narrow House majority, but three special elections scheduled for this Tuesday almost guarantee the Democrats will gain control of the chamber.
Cutler wrote letters to Governor Josh Shapiro (D) and House Chief Clerk Brooke Wheeler seeking information regarding another move Rozzi recently made: ordering a change of the lock to the 401 Main Capitol Conference Room, which encompasses offices of both the Republican Caucus chief of staff and GOP leader’s legal counsel. Cutler also wrote to the speaker himself, emphasizing that those offices house “sensitive and privileged” documents that only the House Republican leader may view.
“To begin, your coordination with the Department of General Services (‘DGS’) [to change the lock] without the knowledge or supervision of our Chief Clerk’s Office or Sergeant-at-Arms Department is completely unacceptable and is a significant breach of internal security,” Cutler wrote to Rozzi.
The Republican leader said he received no notice that Rozzi would work with DGS to keep Cutler and his staff out of the offices. The letter went on to complain about the speaker’s failure to drop his caucus membership and to hire both Republican and Democratic staffers.
“The Speaker of the House is a position of honor that demands that its occupant be of the utmost character,” Cutler concluded in his letter to the speaker. “Respect is earned, not entitled, and your failure in all these regards necessarily leads me to believe that you are not fit for the high duty of this constitutional office.”
Rozzi has publicly insisted that he will not allow consideration of any legislation until the chamber takes up a constitutional amendment permitting adults alleging they experienced sexual abuse as children to sue those they accuse. Republicans, most of whom support the legislation, have nonetheless faulted the speaker for what they deem obstructionism as his demands have impeded other legislation they wanted to be considered.
Cutler asked Shapiro to assist him in determining who changed the lock to the capitol building offices, why the occupants got no notice of that action and whether any items were inspected or removed from those offices. He also wants to know who specifically from the speaker’s office or DGS determined the lock should be changed and what supposed legal authority allowed that decision to be executed.
The Republican leader also asked Wheeler for an opinion as to whether the speaker or his employees can unilaterally enter GOP House offices without giving notice or being accompanied by a sergeant-at-arms. He furthermore inquired about what security protocols exist to keep DGS or speaker staff from accessing GOP caucus areas.
Cutler noted he himself served as House speaker until last year and characterized Rozzi’s move as “undignified” and unbecoming of someone serving in his position.
“As such, it is incumbent upon us to manage properly without respect to the demands of one
person who, by and through a series of questionable choices, has already locked out the entire
membership of the House from the House Floor and refuses to issue a session calendar,” Cutler wrote to Wheeler. “Until a majority of the House finds a remedy to these disturbing actions, I must ask that you discharge your duties with fidelity to all House members, including Republicans, so that incidents such as the one detailed in this letter never happen again.”
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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Bryan Cutler” by PA State Rep. Bryan Cutler. Photo “Mark Rozzi” by Rep. Mark Rozzi. Background Photo “Pennsylvania State Capitol” by Kumar Appaiah. CC BY-SA 2.0.