Working Families Of America Unite Posted At 16:07:10 01/26/2000

Serafini resignation comes too late for April special election

HARRISBURG, Jan. 24 Ė House Democratic Leader H. William DeWeese of Waynesburg and House Democratic Whip Mike Veon of Beaver Falls responded today to Rep. Frank Serafiniís resignation by calling it "a cynical move by House Republicans to prevent a special election on Primary Day."

Veon said, "While weíre glad that there will no longer be a convicted felon in the House of Representatives, the fact that Mr. Serafiniís resignation is not effective until February 7 precludes a prompt special election in conjunction with the Primary Election. This has been the House Republican plan all along. It is an arrogant abuse of power, designed to preserve their slim majority in the House."

Serafini, a Republican from Lackawanna County, was convicted in federal court of perjury on Nov. 18, 1999. The Pennsylvania Constitution expressly prohibits a person from holding public office if he/she is convicted of perjury. House Democrats have been attempting to oust Serafini since his conviction, but have been thwarted by House Republican leaders.

On the House floor, DeWeese blasted the House GOP leadership for "incessant caterwauling and carping about the right of Mr. Serafini to appeal. All of their high-minded ideals were merely window dressing, designed to thwart the constitution long enough to deny the people of the 114th District a voice in the legislature for as long as possible."

Under state law (Act 18 of 1998), House Speaker Matthew Ryan must schedule a special election by issuing a writ of election within 10 days of a House vacancy. The special election must occur no later than the next regularly scheduled election (Primary, Municipal or General Election), but cannot occur sooner than 60 days from the issuance of the writ. A special election may be scheduled on a date separate from a Primary or General Election.

The timing of Serafiniís resignation means there will not be a special election at the time of the April 4 primary. However, Speaker Ryan can schedule a special election later in April or in May, so that the 114th House District will not go 10 months without representation.

"We call on Matt Ryan to schedule a special election at the earliest possible date, in order to give the people of the 114th District the representation they deserve," Veon said.

DeWeese added that he was "incredulous that our House constitutional officer would accept Mr. Serafiniís letter of resignation without at least questioning the dubious nature of the February 7 effective date. The eyes of this Commonwealth are now squarely focused on Matt Ryan."

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