|What Does the Fight for Speaker Mean?
Pennsylvania’s new Speaker of the House, Mark Rozzi, made his mark doggedly fighting for years to get justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse by extending the statute of limitations so that pedophiles don’t get a pass. It’s mind-blowing that it was a years-long fight to award victims ample time to come forward and hold their abusers accountable in court. We’ve always applauded his leadership for the justice these children rightfully deserve.
In far too many other aspects of life, there is no redress for the children our institutions harm. For instance, adults can’t sue their school because they received an inadequate education. There is no statute of limitations dictating by when they must seek justice – there’s simply no statute giving them a shot at justice at all.
That’s why the election of Mark Rozzi as speaker could have real promise for children.
The PA House and Senate are defendants in a lawsuit brought by school districts and families against the state itself for its failure to adequately fund public schools. We hope the school districts and families win this case; if they do, it will be up the state House and Senate to decide to appeal. Mark Rozzi can dramatically affect the House’s decision to not pursue the case, leaving the Senate as the sole defendant.
Or better yet, he can accelerate the solution by making sure that pro-school funding lawmakers become chairs of the critical Education and Appropriations Committees.
Right now, parents and children cannot sue paint manufacturers who knowingly sold household paints ladened with lead that continue to poison thousands of PA children ever year. As those children will forever live with the lifelong consequences of blood lead poisoning, could Speaker Rozzi champion a change in the legal system so these victims can hold manufacturers responsible?
Or could he start to solve the problem by demanding that the chairs of the Health and Human Services Committees will fight for the funds needed to make homes safe for young children?
Reports of physical and sexual abuse in juvenile facilities dominate the headlines as children and teens have bravely come forward about the abuse they suffered. Will Speaker Rozzi demand that his appointments to the chairmanships of the Children and Youth, and Judiciary Committees set as their number one goal the protection of vulnerable youth and more effective ways to hold these institutions accountable? (One way would be to not lock up children, but that’s the topic for a future The Point.)
The political intrigue of his ascendancy to the Speakership is fascinating. What would be inspiring is if this brings about a new day in Harrisburg where protecting children from harm becomes the touchstone for the whole House of Representatives as it was for Rozzi’s entire political career.
Sometimes we need constitutional amendments to protect children. Late today, actually, Gov. Wolf called for a special session to get the statute of limitations bill on the May ballot, the next step in the amendment process.
But if lawmakers – Democrats and Republicans – would unify and act to protect our children from harm, we wouldn’t need to take the fight to the constitution. Lawmakers have the power to keep our kids safe already, they just need the political will and bipartisanship to make it happen.