The Lead

Lt. Gov. overhaul: House approves deputy home sale, letting governor pick their running mate

By: - December 18, 2019 5:28 pm

The Pennsylvania Capitol building (Capital-Star photo).

The state House approved a pair of bills Wednesday that will change the Lieutenant Governor’s office — literally and figuratively.

One of the proposals, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, would order the state to sell the lieutenant governor’s official residence at Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County. It passed 176-21.

The other would let each party’s winning gubernatorial candidate pick their own lieutenant governor, “subject to the approval of the political party or political body.” The two would then run as a joint ticket in November. It passed 130-67.

Right now, Pennsylvania’s governor and lieutenant governor are selected in separate primary elections. However, they are elected jointly in November.

The shotgun marriage came to head during Gov. Tom Wolf’s first term. His 2014 running mate was long time Philadelphia state Sen. Mike Stack. 

As Wolf’s No. 2., Stack was  embroiled in scandal over his treatment of staff and use of state money. Wolf ended up pulling his staff in response.

Stack lost the Democratic primary in 2018 to John Fetterman, then mayor of Braddock — a small borough outside Pittsburgh. Fetterman is the current lieutenant governor.

Eight states use Pennsylvania’s current system to pick their lieutenant governor, according to a 2015 report. Another 13 let the governor chose their running mate.

Democrats chafed at the provision giving the party input on the outcome. But at least four states let the party outright chose their gubernatorial candidate’s running mate.

The Senate must confirm some minor changes before it passes. Because the bill is a constitutional amendment, it must pass two legislative sessions in a row before voters would have the final say at a statewide referendum. 

The other bill, to sell the lieutenant governor’s residence, was introduced by Scarnati in response to Fetterman living instead in his Braddock home.

“While the residence has served as an asset for many decades, it is no longer a necessity of state government,” Scarnati wrote in a memo.

The proposal also has Fetterman’s support.

The house is 2,400-square feet, with three floors and a pool. Scarnati said in his memo that it costs $400,000 a year to maintain.

Pennsylvania is the only state with an official residence for the lieutenant governor, according to Julia Hurst Brossart, director of the National Lieutenant Governors Association.

The bill now goes to Wolf’s desk for his signature.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.