Schweiker nominates 39 in a late move He calls it his duty, but Democrats see it as dirty.

Posted: January 09, 2003

HARRISBURG — Democrat Ed Rendell won't have to wait long for a lesson in politics, Harrisburg-style.

On Jan. 21, the day Rendell will be sworn in as governor, the Republican-controlled Senate is scheduled to fill 39 vacancies on state courts and on state boards and commissions.

Those 39 people were nominated by outgoing Gov. Schweiker, a Republican, and Democrats are condemning the last-minute moves as a political power grab.

"What the Republicans are doing is wrong," said State Sen. Michael O'Pake (D., Berks), the minority whip. "There was an election in November, and people decided they wanted a Democratic governor. To saddle that governor with Republican leftovers is wrong."

Some of the nominations are for posts on low-profile boards, such as the one that regulates the state's auctioneers. But there also are 10 judicial appointments and six nominations to the board that oversees the 14 state-run colleges and universities.

"Higher-education board members have significant authority over the entire system that includes 10,000 employees and 100,000 students," said G. Terry Madonna, a political analyst and a professor at Millersville University - which is part of the state system.

Schweiker defended the eleventh-hour nominations, saying he was elected to work through the last day of his term.

"I thought it my job to advance qualified people for the important judicial positions," he said in an interview this week. "But also I think it drives home the impression that Mark Schweiker, as governor, was going to go hard to Jan. 21. And it was incumbent upon me to suggest those candidates. It's up to the legislature to respond."

Late yesterday, Schweiker added to the list of nominees, announcing he had chosen William H. Lamb of Easttown Township, Chester County, to fill a vacancy on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

A spokesman for Rendell said the governor-elect was not opposed to Lamb filling out the term that ends in 2004 but that Rendell has asked the Senate to hold off confirming any nominees until he takes office.

"Legislative leaders have expressed a willingness to work with the governor on a bipartisan level on a number of issues, and [the Lamb nomination] is one of them," said Rendell spokesman Ken Snyder.

Convening the Senate on inauguration day to consider appointments of an outgoing governor is not unprecedented. On the morning of Gov. Robert P. Casey's inauguration in January 1987, the Senate considered 66 nominations from departing Gov. Dick Thornburgh.

Records show the legislature did not consider any last-minute Casey nominations before Gov. Tom Ridge's inaugural in January 1996, but it would not have mattered; the Republican-controlled Senate could have quashed the nominations before they reached the floor.

"There is no way [Sen. President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer] would have called the Senate into session to fill vacancies [for Casey]," said Karen Walsh, a former senior adviser to Casey, who is now communications director for Auditor General Bob Casey Jr.

Earlier this month, Senate Republicans scheduled a rare extra session day for yesterday, but then opted against it after meeting with Senate Democrats and members of the Rendell transition team.

Senate Minority Leader Robert Mellow (D., Lackawanna) praised the decision as a "show of good faith" by Republican leadership but remained concerned that the GOP is trying to "subvert the outcome of the election."

"I am appalled by what they are trying to accomplish," Mellow said. "Once the legislature ended in November, [the nominations] should be left to the discretion of the governor-elect."

Mellow said he hoped the Senate would delay considering any of the nominations - which remain alive unless they are formally removed by the new governor - until February.

Mellow said he did not believe Democrats had any opposition to the judicial nominees but felt there could be philosophical differences between nominees for the education boards and the Rendell administration.

A governor's nominations to state offices are subject to approval by the Senate - some by a two-thirds margin, which would require Democratic votes to augment those of the 28-member GOP majority.

In the last week of the session that ended Nov. 27, the Senate rushed through 100 nominees and changed the rules for confirming them. Under the revised rules, most nominees must receive only a simple majority vote, rather than the previous two-thirds vote. Judicial nominations still require a two-thirds vote.

Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or

Inquirer staff writer Mario Cattabiani contributed to this article.

Schweiker's Nominees

These Philadelphia-area residents are being nominated by Gov. Schweiker to fill state board seats and judgeships.

Pennsylvania Council on Aging

Benjamin S. Ellis Jr., Philadelphia

Annetta S. Kraus, Wallingford

Harvey Portner, Elkins Park

Pennsylvania Council on the Arts

Gail Harrity, Philadelphia

State Board of Education

Margaret Briggs-Kenney, Philadelphia

Colleen A. Sheehan, Wayne

State Board of Higher Education

David P. Holveck, Malvern

Pennsylvania Supreme Court

William H. Lamb, Easttown

Court of Common Pleas, Bucks County

Mitchell S. Goldberg, Yardley

Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia

Lori A. Dumas, Philadelphia

Jeffrey P. Minehart, Philadelphia

Bradley K. Moss, Philadelphia

Philadelphia Traffic Court

Domenic C. Reda Jr., Philadelphia

comments powered by Disqus