Mike Turzai

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Mike Turzai
140th Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Assumed office
January 6, 2015
Preceded by Sam Smith
Republican Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
In office
January 4, 2011 – January 6, 2015
Preceded by Sam Smith
Succeeded by Dave Reed
Republican Whip of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
In office
January 6, 2009 – November 30, 2010
Preceded by Dave Argall
Succeeded by Stan Saylor
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
from the 28th district
Assumed office
July 12, 2001[1][2]
Preceded by Jane Orie
Personal details
Born (1959-08-02) August 2, 1959 (age 57)
Sewickley, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Lidia Turzai
Alma mater University of Notre Dame
Duke University

Michael Coyne Turzai (born August 2, 1959) is a Republican member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He was elected Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2015. He served as the House Majority Leader from 2011 through 2014. He has represented the 28th legislative district since 2001.


On January 6, 2015, Mike Turzai was unanimously elected by his colleagues to be Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He received a standing ovation after being sworn in.[3]

Turzai became a representative in 2001, winning a special election for a seat in the 28th Legislative District representing communities in the North Hills of Allegheny County, north of Pittsburgh.

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."[4] During the same session, he led efforts to modernize the state’s unemployment compensation system,[5] 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.[6] That process began four years prior when, as Minority Whip, Turzai began to build the case to break up the PLCB monopoly.[7] 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.[8] Virtually every newspaper endorsed his plan to privatize – something unprecedented in the state.[citation needed] 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[9] – a first since Governor Pinchot enacted the state store system in 1934.[10] 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.”[11]

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).[6] The budget also included record funding for K-12 Pennsylvania education.[12]

In August 2014, Turzai went on a goodwill mission to personally meet with Dr. William Hite, superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia.[13] Credited for brokering a deal that would allow local leaders in Philadelphia City Council to self-govern and enact a cigarette tax to temporarily help the district meet its financial obligations and keep school doors open on time for more than 200,000 students,[14] 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.[15]

Voter ID comment and controversy[edit]

On June 23, 2012, Turzai stated at a meeting of the Republican State Committee that Pennsylvania's new[16] voter identification law would "allow Governor [Mitt] Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania"[17] in the 2012 U.S. Presidential election. “Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”[18] A lawsuit had been filed the month before challenging the law, and Turzai's comment heightened national debate and concern over whether the goal of the voter ID laws then being passed in Republican-controlled states was actually to check voter fraud or to set obstacles against student, elderly, minority and low-income individuals,[19] in Pennsylvania an estimated 750,000 of whom were already registered voters.[20][21] During a Fox News debate in September 2012 with state senator Daylin Leach, Turzai claimed that the legislation, for which no Democratic representative had voted,[21] had bipartisan support and noted that it "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, or going to an airport."[22][23] The next month a partial preliminary injunction was issued, allowing voters to vote in the November 2012 election without a photo ID; in 2014, after a protracted legal battle, the Pennsylvania voter ID law was permanently enjoined as unconstitutional[16] and the Commonwealth declined to appeal.[24] The confusion and publicity surrounding the law did have a dampening effect, however, according to Pennsylvania GOP party chairman Rob Gleason, who in 2013 said, "Yeah, I think [the controversy affected Pennsylvania voter turnout] a little bit. We probably had a better election. Think about this, we cut Obama by 5%, which was big. A lot of people lost sight of that. He won, he beat McCain by 10%, he only beat Romney by 5%. I think that probably Voter ID had helped a bit in that."[25][26]

Medical marijuana opposition[edit]

Despite strong support for legalization in his state, Turzai is staunchly against legalizing medical cannabis. He was reported to have broken down in tears over his opposition to it during a caucus discussion.[27][28] In February 2016 Turzai was reported to have verbally attacked concerned parents who support medical cannabis legalization.[29]

Personal life[edit]

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, Lidia, reside in Marshall Township with their three sons.


  1. ^ Cox, Harold (November 3, 2004). "Pennsylvania House of Representatives - 2001-2002" (PDF). Wilkes University Election Statistics Project. Wilkes University. 
  2. ^ "Representative Mike Turzai (PA)". Project Vote Smart. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-12. 
  3. ^ "Lawmakers take oaths as Pa. legislature opens". philly-archives. 
  4. ^ Jessica M. Karmasek (27 June 2011). "Fair Share Act passes Pa. House, ready to become law". legalnewsline.com. 
  5. ^ "PA to borrow $4.5 billion pay off unemployment debt to feds". tribunedigital-mcall. 
  6. ^ "Bill Information (History) - House Bill 790; Regular Session 2013-2014". The official website for the Pennsylvania General Assembly. 
  7. ^ "PA State Rep. Mike Turzai - Turzai Introduces Legislation to Privatize Sale of Wine and Spirits". repturzai.com. 
  8. ^ "Pennsylvania House GOP leader advocates bill that would sell off state liquor stores". lehighvalleylive.com. 
  9. ^ "House bill would shut Pa. liquor stores, open sales to groceries and pharmacies". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  10. ^ Karen M. Samuels. "Lehigh Valley History". lehighvalleyhistory.blogspot.com. 
  11. ^ ROBERT SWIFT (HARRISBURG BUREAU CHIEF). "House RACP debate focuses on jobs". thetimes-tribune.com. 
  12. ^ "PA Budget Live Blog: Corbett signs budget without his agenda items". PA Independent. 
  13. ^ "House majority leader, Hite discuss Phila. cigarette tax". philly-archives. 
  14. ^ "Senate passes Phila. cigarette tax; Corbett poised to sign". philly-archives. 
  15. ^ "Tradeoff in the cigarette tax bill: Potential for more new charters, more appeals". Public School Notebook. 
  16. ^ a b "Arnold & Porter Wins State Voting Rights Case, Pa Voter ID Law Struck Down". Arnold & Porter. January 17, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2016. Pennsylvania's voter ID law, which was enacted in March of 2012, did not allow many commonly used identification cards for voting. According to the court's findings, most voters would have been forced to travel to one of only 71 Pennsylvania Department of Transportation locations to obtain state-issued identification, while the state law especially burdened the elderly, those with limited mobility and disabilities, individuals with fewer resources and the homeless. 'The statute as implemented, imperfectly and inaccurately, does not assure the franchise, it de facto denies it,' Judge McGinley concluded. 
  17. ^ Turzai: Voter ID Will Allow Romney to Win Pa. YouTube. 25 June 2012. 
  18. ^ Weinger, Mackenzie (June 25, 2012). "Pa. pol: Voter ID helps GOP win state". Politico. Retrieved April 15, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Democrats Unhappy With GOP Comments About The New, Controversial Voter ID Law « CBS Philly". cbslocal.com. 
  20. ^ This was the number acknowledged by the state.Cooper, Michael (June 25, 2012). "Pennsylvania's Voter ID Law Spurs Debate". The New York Times. Retrieved April 15, 2016. 
  21. ^ a b Muskal, Michael (January 17, 2016). "Pennsylvania voter ID law struck down by judge as unconstitutional". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 26, 2016. 
  22. ^ Mike Turzai#cite note-19
  23. ^ "Leach V. Turzai on Voter ID". Youtube. September 23, 2012. Retrieved April 26, 2016. 
  24. ^ "Applewhite, et al. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al.". aclupa.org. ACLU of Pennsylvania. Retrieved April 15, 2016. 
  25. ^ "PA GOP chair says voter ID helped cut Obama margin". philly.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer. July 19, 2013. Retrieved April 15, 2016. 
  26. ^ On April 26, 2016, North Carolina's Voter ID law in its entirety was upheld by a federal judge. In a prepared statement, Governor Pat McCrory echoed Rep. Turzai's 2012 list of things photo ID is used for: "Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and thankfully a federal court has ensured our citizens will have the same protection for their basic right to vote." CBS/AP (April 26, 2016). "Federal judge upholds strict North Carolina voter ID law". CBS News. Retrieved April 26, 2016. 
  27. ^ McQuade, Dan. "Pa. House Speaker Has 'Boehner-Like Breakdown' Over Medical Marijuana". Philadelphia Magazine. Retrieved 21 November 2015. 
  28. ^ Murphy, Jan. "Closed-door medical marijuana debate brings House speaker to tears: sources". PennLive.com. The Patriot-News. Retrieved 21 November 2015. 
  29. ^ Micek, John. "'He went right in and started screaming at us,' medical pot advocates say of Turzai: Friday Morning Coffee". Retrieved 19 February 2016. 

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