|Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
from the 28th district
July 12, 2001
|Preceded by||Jane Orie|
|140th Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives|
January 6, 2015
|Preceded by||Sam Smith|
|Republican Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives|
January 4, 2011 – January 6, 2015
|Preceded by||Sam Smith|
|Republican Whip of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives|
January 6, 2009 – November 30, 2010
|Preceded by||Dave Argall|
|Succeeded by||Stan Saylor|
August 2, 1959 |
Sewickley, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Notre Dame
Michael Coyne Turzai (born August 2, 1959) is an American politician currently serving as a member and Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Turzai has represented the 28th legislative district since 2001 and is a member of the Republican Party. He served as the House Majority Leader, from 2011 through 2014.
On January 6, 2015, Mike Turzai was unanimously elected by his colleagues to be Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Winning a special election for a seat in the 28th Legislative District representing communities in the North Hills of Allegheny County, Mike Turzai became a Representative in 2001.
He was elected Republican Policy Committee Chairman for the 2007-08 session where he focused on ending waste, fraud and abuse within the state’s welfare programs. Turzai also used the Policy Committee to bring more openness to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and helped usher in various reforms to the process.
After having been twice elected by his peers to serve as Majority Leader for the House Republican Caucus, Turzai led an aggressive, principle-based conservative agenda that improved the state’s business climate allowing for private sector job creation reformed the way the Legislature operates and invested in our education system.
During the 2011-12 legislative session, Turzai followed through on the recommendations of the Policy Committee he chaired by working with colleagues to pass into law some strong welfare reforms, including drug testing for certain recipients.
With an aim to improve the state’s jobs climate, Turzai was instrumental in passing the Fair Share Act, a bill that abolishes joint and several liability. Turzai said, "The Fair Share Act is commonsense legislation aimed at saving jobs." During the same session, he led efforts to modernize the state’s unemployment compensation system, including an active job search requirement for recipients to continue to receive benefits.
Turzai has been the leading advocate for privatizing the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s state-owned wine and spirit monopoly, one of only two states left in the nation to fully control the wholesale and retail sale of wines and liquors. His efforts led to the historic passage of House Bill 790 in the state House on March 21, 2013. That process began four years prior when, as Minority Whip, Turzai began to build the case to break up the PLCB monopoly. Pointing to an inherent conflict of interest (boosting sales while regulating and enforcing the laws), corruption and to government’s total ineptitude to manage a business, Turzai built the case and presented evidence. Virtually every newspaper endorsed his plan to privatize – something unprecedented in the state. Despite the efforts of long-entrenched special interests, Turzai succeeded in gaining House to passage of HB 790, to privatize wine and spirits in Pennsylvania – a first since Governor Pinchot enacted the state store system in 1934. The bill was not considered by the Senate during the 2013-2014 legislative session but will be front and center during the next session as the state must confront a nearly $2 billion budget gap and a burgeoning pension crisis that could see public pension unfunded liabilities balloon to more than $50 billion.
In February 2013, the House also passed Turzai's legislation to reform the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project (RACP) program, a program seen by fiscal watchdogs as a “political goody bag, rewarding politicians with borrowed funding for local "economic development" projects.”
Under Turzai’s leadership in July 2014, the House passed, for the fourth straight year, an on-time, balanced and conservative state budget that was well within the guidelines set for by TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights). The budget also included record funding for K-12 Pennsylvania education.
In August 2014, Turzai went on a goodwill mission to personally meet with Dr. William Hite, superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia. Credited for brokering a deal that would allow local leaders in Philadelphia City Council to self-govern and enact a tax to temporarily help the district meet its financial obligations and keep school doors open on time for more than 200,000 students, Turzai has made education a cornerstone of policies and subsequent legislation that have been embraced in bipartisan fashion.
The Philadelphia education legislation also included an important charter reform proposal allowing for a charter application and appeal process in Philadelphia, treating the city charters in the same manner as applicants throughout the Commonwealths’ 499 other school districts. By allowing direct appeals of SRC decisions to the state appeals board, charter school applicants would be afforded due process and fair and equitable treatment.
On June 23, 2012, Turzai stated at a meeting of the Republican State Committee that Pennsylvania's recent voter identification law would "allow Governor [Mitt] Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania" in the 2012 U.S. Presidential election. This comment drew criticisms from national and Pennsylvania Democrats, who used the comment to claim that the motives for passing Pennsylvania's voter identification law were partisan. On August 16, 2012, Turzai said; "It is unfortunate, but there has been a history of voter fraud in Pennsylvania" During court proceedings, the plaintiffs called a witness who studied election issues and who opined that voter impersonation is rare. The court also received expert testimony that voter impersonation happens frequently and that a photo ID is necessary to detect and deter it. Because the only Commonwealth officials named as defendants had no authority to investigate claims of voter fraud, those defendants stipulated that they had no personal knowledge about voter fraud and would present no evidence on its pervasiveness.“ Turzai said that voter identification "is really just about presenting voter identification, which you do when you're buying Sudafed at a drugstore, or going to a place to buy beer, or to a gym," during a Fox News debate with a state senator.
Turzai is a graduate of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, the University of Notre Dame and the Duke University School of Law. He and his wife reside in Marshall Township with their three sons.
- Cox, Harold (November 3, 2004). "Pennsylvania House of Representatives - 2001-2002". Wilkes University Election Statistics Project. Wilkes University.
- "Representative Mike Turzai (PA)". Project Vote Smart. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
- Mike Turzai#cite note-19
- Media related to Mike Turzai at Wikimedia Commons
- State Representative Mike Turzai official caucus website
- Mike Turzai (R) official PA House website