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Former union head becomes Pa.'s labor & industry secretary in unprecedented way

Friday, February 2, 2018   (0 Comments)
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PennLive

by Jan Murphy

Former union head becomes Pa.'s labor & industry secretary in unprecedented way

Jerry Oleksiak will start to work this week as Gov. Tom Wolf's labor & industry secretary without having the word "acting" in front of his title.
He becomes the secretary automatically as a result of the state Senate's refusal to act on his nomination - which is said to the first time a Cabinet secretary has taken office without Senate approval.


Wolf nominated Oleksiak to the post after the Aug. 1 resignation of Kathy Manderino, who left to take a position on the state's Gaming Control Board.
Oleksiak, a former Upper Merion Area School District special education teacher for more than three decades, resigned as president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association to take the executive branch post.


Senate Republican leaders had asked Wolf to recall Oleksiak's nomination after expressing serious reservations about his qualifications and abilities. Wolf refused.


In a statement, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, said, "Our lack of confidence stems from concerns for his fitness to lead this agency that were then underscored during meetings with Mr. Oleksiak. Allowing the time for consideration on Mr. Oleksiak to lapse means the Governor's nominee assumes the post of Secretary but without the affirmative vote of the Senate."


A provision in the state constitution gives the Senate a maximum of 25 legislative days to take action on an executive nomination. Failure to do so means the nominee automatically assumes the position.


Wolf's spokesman defended Oleksiak's qualifications for the post and noted that since he has been acting secretary, an unemployment compensation funding solution was found in working with the Legislature to stabilize that system.


"Secretary Oleksiak brings tremendous experience managing a large organization and a School District, working with suppliers of goods, and collaborating with communities to create good-paying, family-sustaining jobs," Wolf said in a statement.

"Throughout his career, Jerry has developed partnerships with all stakeholders that will be an asset as we attract businesses to locate and expand in Pennsylvania and the department works with employers to provide the apprenticeships and other job training programs that companies need to thrive in the 21st century economy."


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