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Berks Rep. Mark Rozzi Elected PA House Speaker

After hours of delay, a bipartisan coalition in the Pennsylvania House picked Berks County Rep. Mark Rozzi as the new Speaker in a 115 to 85 vote.

Rozzi, who has served as a House Democrat since 2012, said he would serve as an independent as Speaker, refusing to caucus with either party and pledging to hire staff from both sides of the aisle.

“I pledge my allegiance and my loyalty to no interest in this building, to no interest in our politics. I pledge my loyalty to the people of the commonwealth,” Rozzi told the House on Tuesday.

With the House currently split at 101 Republicans, 99 Democrats, and three Democratic vacancies, both parties have claimed they should be in power. Democratic Rep. Tony DeLuca passed away last October. Two others resigned when they were elected to higher offices. Democrats argued that once special elections were held in those heavily Democratic districts, they would be in control.

Republicans countered the math showed they should have the speakership.

“I’m sure a lot of you didn’t see this coming today,” said Rozzi, who was elected through a bipartisan compromise. He noted he is the first House Speaker from Berks County since 1935.

Pennsylvania residents are tired of partisanship and “need a new path forward,” said Rozzi. He told his colleagues he is “honored to have their trust.”

In announcing that he would be an independent, Rozzi said, “I’ve never been an ideologue.” He also said he planned to put “people before party or above self-interest.”

“I will caucus with both parties,” he said.  Independent voters “deserve a seat at the table.”

“Never has this House been so divided,” Rozzi continued. “I pledge to put people above politics.”

Republicans accused Democrats of political shenanigans in the leadership fight. According to a report by City & State, GOP leaders accused Democrats of asking Republican members to vote to make their party’s candidate speaker in exchange for access to grant money from Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro’s administration.

Nicole Reigelman, a spokesperson for House Democrats, did not confirm or deny whether Democrats had made any offers to Republican members.

Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster), one of the dozen or so Republicans who voted to make Rozzi speaker, is currently majority leader. Rep. Tim O’Neill (R-Washington) will be majority whip. Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) is minority leader and Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia) is minority whip.

Later Republican leaders congratulated Rozzi, issuing this statement: “We want to congratulate Rep. Mark Rozzi, Pennsylvania’s first Independent Speaker of the House, on his election today. Reflecting the realities of an evenly divided chamber, it is imperative we have a truly independent voice to conduct House business and manage the House floor.”

Culter added, “As a former Speaker myself, I can attest to the fact that the presiding officer of this chamber must remove himself or herself from their own political beliefs and put the institution before individuals. I have known Rep. Rozzi for many years and know he will rise to the occasion and meet the moment as a truly independent leader for the Pennsylvania House.”

According to his website Rozzi, of Muhlenberg Township, graduated in 1989 from Muhlenberg High School where he was a three-sport athlete and member of the Political Science Club and Model UN. Rozzi received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Kutztown University with a concentration in pre-law and constitutional law. His legislative priorities include education, property tax relief, improving the commonwealth’s aging infrastructure, and safeguarding children from predators.

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Guy Ciarrocchi Wins Republican Nomination in 6th Congressional District

Guy Ciarrocchi won a four-way race for the Republican nomination in the 6th Congressional District. He will face incumbent Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks) in the fall.

He was on the field Thursday afternoon coaching girls’ softball when he heard the news that the AP had called the race for him.

“I didn’t plan to run,” said Ciarrocchi. “I didn’t plan to run for office. The last two years caused me to run, drew me to run. And this election is about the contrast to, as Ronald Reagan once said, ‘Are you better off now than four years ago.’

“The question for everybody in the 6th District, are you better off now than two years ago? Or when Chrissy Houlahan took office,” he said.

“If you like $5 dollar gas, she’s your candidate. If you like lockdowns and mandates, she’s your candidate. If you like open borders, she’s your candidate. If you like defunding the police, she’s your candidate. If on the other hand, you’re like most of my neighbors, those things are bad and those ideas have led us to be less secure then I’m offering you an opportunity to bring back common sense,”  Ciarrocchi said.

On Zoom calls with the members of the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry, where Ciarrocchi was president and CEO, he heard his members cry during the pandemic shutdowns “because they were losing their bed and breakfasts and their comic book stores and their restaurants,” he said. “And the parents, whose kids were locked out of school and the kids, who needed not only the schooling but additional instruction and couldn’t get it. That’s who was really sad and really crying and those are the people who moved me to run.”

“And I have to tell their stories,” said Ciarrocchi. “The girls who were then 10 and now 12 who I now coach were locked out of school and not allowed on softball fields and the swing sets at the neighborhood playground were wrapped in police tape.

“And you didn’t need a Ph.D. to know what we were doing to our kids was wrong,” said Ciarrocchi. “And you didn’t need an M.B.A. from Wharton to know what we were doing to our small businesses was wrong. And (Houlahan) voted for it and stood by and let it happen.”

He went on to say Houlahan should have been moved “to this very day to stand up and say she’s sorry and what she did was wrong and she’ll fight to change it. To this very day, she’s supporting open borders. To this very day, she’s supporting keeping American energy in the ground. To this very day, she’s causing inflation.

“She would have caused more inflation, because she voted for that wasteful Build Back Better,” said Ciarrocchi. “And if it wasn’t for (Sen.) Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) we’d be another trillion dollars in debt.”

Asked to respond, Houlahan said, “Serving the good people of Chester and Berks counties is the honor of my lifetime and service I intend to continue. As an Air Force veteran, entrepreneur, teacher, and mother, I continue to meaningfully connect with and advocate for all people across our district. Our community trusts that working to rebuild the local economy, drive down the costs of everyday purchases, and ensure that our kids receive a world-class education, and to do so in a bipartisan and respectful manner, will continue to be my focus. I very much look forward to continuing to engage with every corner of our community, earn the voters’ support again, and drive solutions that tangibly improve their lives.”

A South Philadelphia native, Ciarrocchi is well known in Pennsylvania political circles for his work behind the scenes. He played a key role, for example, in the successful push earlier this year to pass ballot questions limiting the governor’s emergency powers.

Ciarrocchi, who holds degrees from St. Joseph’s University and Villanova Law, worked as a deputy attorney general. in private law practice, and was chief of staff for state Sen. Melissa Hart, U.S. Representative Jim Gerlach, and Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley. He also was executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, regional director for the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign, and regional director for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Ciarrocchi lives in Paoli with his wife, Chris. They have three grown children, Alex, Louis, and Anna.

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Berks, Chester and Montgomery Counties Authorize New Passenger Rail Authority

From a press release

Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline approved today the creation of the Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority, completing the approval last week of the Authority by the Commissioners from Berks and Montgomery Counties.

The Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority (SRPRA) will oversee and implement the restoration of passenger rail service between Reading and Philadelphia and will be supported with equal representation and funding from all three counties, starting with a $100,000 investment.  The SRPRA will have the power to formalize agreements, pursue funding opportunities and partner with rail operators and state and federal transportation agencies.

Each County held a public hearing to consider the creation of the passenger rail authority and during those hearings, the commissioners heard a groundswell of support from their respective communities as many residents, business owners and community leaders voiced their excitement about the prospect of the return of passenger rail. Berks and Montgomery counties approved resolutions to create the authority during their respective meetings on April 21, followed by Chester County approving the resolution on April 27.

Information about the initiative and the Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority can be found at

The creation of the SRPRA is not a guarantee that passenger rail will return, but it is a crucial next step to continue the long process of research and planning. Commissioners from each County noted that while there had been talk of restoring passenger rail service before, this is the first time any type of initiative has gotten this far. County leaders are also optimistic that this effort will be successful due to the potential funding available through the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The SRPRA will be reevaluated and up for reauthorization by all three counties in three years to give county officials an opportunity to determine if it is still a worthwhile effort. The Authority will consist of nine members, with three appointees from each county.  The following individuals were approved as the inaugural members of the Authority:

• Christian Leinbach, Berks County Commissioner

• Marian Moskowitz, Chester County Commissioner

• Kenneth Lawrence Jr., Montgomery County Commissioner

• Jim Gerlach, President of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance

• Eddie Moran, Reading Mayor

• Brian O’Leary, Director of the Chester County Planning Commission

• Peter Urscheler, Phoenixville Mayor

• Scott France, Director of the Montgomery County Planning Commission

• David Zellers, Director of the Montgomery County Commerce Department

The SRPRA was formed after the Tri-County Passenger Rail Committee spent a year exploring the most efficient manner to restore passenger rail service to the region. The Committee was a nine-member group comprised of one County Commissioner from each county and other local leaders. The members of the committee are confident that passenger rail service in places like Reading, Pottstown and Phoenixville could potentially generate more than $1 billion in new property development and existing property value increases, which translates to thousands of jobs and the expansion of local and federal tax bases over the next 30 years. Further, passenger rail service would provide transportation and job opportunities to underserved minority communities and immediately impact some of the largest clusters of low- and moderate-income households in the suburbs of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

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