State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Three Democrats to be sworn into top state offices

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jan 17, 2017 4:24 AM
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Incoming Attorney General Josh Shapiro had a higher-profile race than usual, in the wake of Kathleen Kane's tumultuous administration. (Photo by AP)

(Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania's three statewide row offices are swearing in their new leaders Tuesday. Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, and Treasurer Joe Torsella are taking their vows in separate locations around Harrisburg.

Out of the three Democrats assuming row office roles, only one is an incumbent. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale first assumed the position in 2013, and has promised his second term will make his first look like "child's play."

The former state representative's first four years as the state's top fiscal watchdog have been busy ones. Overall, he has estimated that his office's audits turned up roughly $200 million in dubious spending.

That includes repeated audits of the Pennsylvania's troubled charter school system. DePasquale has repeatedly called the commonwealth's law governing charter schools the "worst in the nation."

He has pledged to keep up pressure on school laws going forward, and also named six other areas of focus, including the drug rehab, college affordability, job creation, transportation, and economic issues for seniors.

The Auditor General's swearing-in tends to be a modest event--DePasquale will kick off term two before a small crowd in the Keystone Building in Harrisburg.

On the other side of the spectrum is incoming AG Josh Shapiro, who's assuming his office for the first time amid considerable fanfare and scrutiny.

That's largely due to his predecessor, the scandal-prone Kathleen Kane, who resigned from office in August after a felony perjury and obstruction conviction. She's currently appealing it.

Shapiro, who takes over for interim Attorney General Bruce Beemer, has promised to be a sharp departure from the notoriously secretive Kane. He has said he wants to be "the people's attorney general," and to that end, his office says he'll be inviting "the people" themselves to celebrate the start of his term.

Following his swearing-in at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Harrisburg, the public is getting a rare invitation to the AG's office on the top floors of the Strawberry Square Complex, a few blocks from the Capitol.

After the festivities, Shapiro is pledging to make some significant changes. For one, he's already hired a chief integrity officer--a first for the office.

Incoming Treasurer Joe Torsella has also pledged to hire a chief integrity officer, and for similar reasons--his office has also been plagued by scandal in the last decade, largely in the form of treasurers taking payouts from wealthy business partners.

But Torsella's not making that the focus of his inauguration. Instead, he's bringing the ceremony to a different arena entirely: Camp Curtain Academy, a city middle school in Harrisburg.

The site was chosen in relation to one of Torsella's biggest campaign promises--he wants to institute automatic higher education savings accounts for all children born in Pennsylvania.

The incoming Treasurer has said existing education savings plans are underused, and when families do take advantage of them, it's typically the families who don't need them the most.

He said he wants the school, and its children, to serve as real-world reminders of the resources that are put at stake when Harrisburg doesn't pass balanced budgets.

The three inaugural events will be spread throughout the day--DePasquale's at 10:00 am, Shapiro's at noon, and Torsella's at 2:00 pm.

Governor Tom Wolf has said he'll be attending all three.

Published in News, State House Sound Bites

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