HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called lawmakers to Harrisburg on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, for a special session to help survivors of childhood sexual assault.
The legislature did not do much on the constitutional amendment regarding childhood sex assault, but a GOP lawmaker who nominated Mark Rozzi for speaker of the House less than a week ago is now calling for him to resign.
Shaun Dougherty, a survivor of childhood sexual assault and an advocate for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is no stranger to the Capitol. Dougherty fought for years to open a window allowing survivors to sue beyond the statute of limitations.
Now, Dougherty is back on the front lines as rumors that Republicans want a voter ID amendment in exchange for the sex abuse amendment spread.
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“You’re going to wager your child’s sexual innocence over some other constitutional amendment that some lobbyist who bought you a steak last night for dinner wants,” said Dougherty.
In mere seconds, the senate gaveled in and out of Gov. Wolf’s special session without doing anything.
On Tuesday, Wolf released the following statement:
“Yesterday, political games and partisanship in the State House—and an attempt to end mail-in voting as we know it in the Senate—took precedence over justice for survivors. It’s time to stop the games, put everything else aside, and work together to get the statute of limitations amendment on the ballot this May.
“This special session is meant to provide a mechanism to help prevent this bipartisan issue from becoming entangled with partisan topics. Last fall, we promised action to get this done. I’m asking Republican and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly to complete this vital work. Answer the call you signed up for as elected officials and public servants. Pennsylvania is waiting.”
Republicans are prioritizing the voter ID amendment, making it “SB 1,” but say they support the survivor bill.
“The Senate side is on the record, we think it’s an issue we should be passing and we had passed in a prior session and we’re going to go that direction again,” said Sen. Chris Gebhard (R-Lebanon).
“It’s time to stop making them wait. It’s a sorry thing, but when you make them wait we actually lose more,” said Sen. Tim Kearney (D-Delaware).
The State House, without rules and structure, is currently very murky.
Republican sex abuse survivor Jim Gregory, who nominated Democrat sex abuse survivor Mark Rozzi for speaker last week, rescinded his support in a letter on Monday, Jan. 9, claiming Rozzi went back on a promise to switch to an Independent.
The letter concluded with, “As a result of your broken promises I must sadly and respectfully ask for you to immediately resign the office of speaker.”
At the governor’s call, rank and file members were in Harrisburg. But was the trip worthwhile?
“Right now, we are in a holding pattern,” said Rep. Mary Isaacson (D-Philadelphia).
“Every time I come to this building I say, ‘Nothing is going to shock me this time.’ And yet within an hour of being in this building, I’m shocked every time,” Dougherty said.
For perspective, Harrisburg has seen hundreds of years of government, but it’s never seen this before.