Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Liquor Chief Newman to step down...

10 a.m., Jan. 3

What do booze and the battle for the gavel have in common?

I can't think of anything immediately either. But I just learned of this news nugget, so I will share.

Jonathan H. Newman will step down from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board this morning after seven years at the agency, the last 4 1/2 as its chairman.

His decision comes after a very public flap with Gov. Rendell over the governor's push last month to appoint former state Sen. Joe Conti (R., Bucks) as CEO of the liquor board to run its day-to-day operations.

Newman had criticized Rendell for creating the new $150,000-a-year post, approved by the two other liquor board members, without a nationwide search.

The move, Newman said today, violated "transparency and good government."

He plans to make the announcement when the board meets this morning at 10. His last day on the job is Jan. 12.

There's no word on what Newman, the son of outgoing Supreme Court Justice Sandra Schultz Newman, plans for the future.

More on this in tomorrow's paper.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

It all came together at the last minute...

3:20 p.m.

From my colleague Angela Couloumbis:

Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.) said O’Brien’s ascent to speaker only came together in the last three days.

He said Rep. Josh Shapiro (D., Montgomery) first approached O’Brien about the job on New Year’s Eve, and that initially, O’Brien was hesitant about being nominated by Democrats.

So on New Year’s Day, Evans said he and other top Democratic leaders met with O’Brien at the Marriott in West Conshohocken for three hours. Gov. Rendell later got on the phone. The meeting resumed today at the governor’s mansion in Harrisburg, and later at Evans’ office.

“I think in the beginning, Denny didn’t know how to view it – he’s been a registered Republican for the last 30 years,” Evans said. “He was concerned about the people who had been loyal to him, but at the same time, he knew things had to change.”

The negotiations were so last-minute, Evans said, that most rank-and-file Democrats had no idea that leadership intended to nominate O’Brien when the full House convened shortly after noon to vote on a speaker. So he and other Democrats worked the floor to shore up the votes.

Why O’Brien?

Because he is smart and fair, Evans said, adding that it was clear that neither DeWeese nor Perzel had the votes to become speaker. And, Evans added, Democrats were outraged that Perzel had managed to pick off at least one Democrat to vote for him for speaker.

“The outrage you sensed – for us to nominate a Republican – grew out of a sense of injustice. A sense that Perzel had gone too far,” Evans said.

How he did it...

2:30 p.m.

Rep. Dennis O'Brien became speaker by defeating former speaker Rep. John Perzel in a 105-97 vote.

He has six Republicans, who broke ranks with their leadership, to thank: Reps. Kerry Benninghoff (R., Center), Jim Cox (R., Berks), Brad Roae (R., Crawford), Sam Rohrer (R., Berks), Curt Schroder (R., Chester) and David Steil (R., Bucks).

They outnumbered the three Democrats -- Reps. Thomas Caltagirone (D., Berks), Angel Cruz (D., Phila.) and Rosita Youngblood (D., Phila.) -- who voted for Perzel.

Speaker O'Brien Speaks ...

1:40 p.m.

Moments after he took the oath, O'Brien was presented with the gavel by former Speaker Bob O'Donnell.

"I am truly overwhelmed. This is not something I thought about 24 hours ago. This is going to be one of the shortest speeches in Pennsylvania history. This is unexpected and I'm completely honored," O'Brien said with his son, Dennis, at his side.

He went on to pledge that he would move forward with a series of unspecified reforms.

Speaker O'Brien...

DeWeese said he took his hat off to Perzel, calling him a "worthy foe."
O'Brien, who sat quietly throughout the election with his son on his lap, shook Perzel's hand as he made his way to the rostrum.

And the winner is...

1:35 p.m.

O'Brien, 105 votes to Perzel's 97...

Another nominee...

1:35 p.m.

Rep. Ron Marsico (R., Dauphin) nominated Rep. Mike Sturla (D., Lancaster) for speaker.

Sturla, who said he supported O'Brien, declined the nomination.