Corbett administration defends Senator Waugh's new job

Written by The Associated Press | Jan 13, 2014 11:06 AM

Updated at 2:30 p.m.

(Harrisburg) -- The Republican who has represented a York County district in the state Senate since 1998 is leaving before his term expires and will take the job as Pa. Farm Show Complex and Expo Center Director.

“We are honored Mike has agreed to take on the job of directing the Pennsylvania Farm Show and Expo Center,“ said Governor Tom Corbett in a statement“Under Mike’s leadership, I know our center will remain the world standard for showcasing the business of agriculture … and the values of the Pennsylvania farmer.”

Senator Mike Waugh announced he had resigned from the Senate a day earlier. He had previously announced he was not running for another term in this year's election.

In a statement, Waugh said: “The position which I’ve been offered, and which I’m accepting, is one that I’ve considered for the better part of a year. I look forward to the challenges it will bring, and I’m excited to serve the citizens of Pennsylvania in this new capacity.”

He replaces Pat Kerwin, who will leave the job after serving in an advisory role for a couple months.

A section of the state constitution prohibits any senator or representative from taking any state appointment that draws a salary "during the time for which he was elected."

A similar issue arose in 2004, when the state attorney general's office went to court to stop the appointment of a Democratic state lawmaker who had resigned to join the state's new gambling commission.

Commonwealth Court threw the legislator, Jeffrey Coy, off the gambling board but said he could be appointed when his state House term expired.

"The phrase 'during the time for which he was elected' logically applies to the remainder of the time when a legislator should have served, even if he or she resigns before the term ends," Judge Doris A. Smith-Ribner wrote in the Coy case, which was not appealed.

The Corbett administration says a state senator can resign to run the Farm Show because the job isn't a ``civil office'' under Pennsylvania law. 

Corbett spokesman Jay Pagni said the state constitutional provision that prohibits senators and representatives from taking state appointments to public jobs doesn't apply to the Farm Show job. 

Lt. Governor Jim Cawley has already called a special election for March 18th.  With a variety of important issues expected to come before the General Assembly this spring, Cawley says the people of York County deserve to be fully represented.

The 28th district has been represented by a Republican for nearly 20 years.

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