Governor fills last Cabinet post, labor and industry
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HARRISBURG -- State prosecutor Julia K. Hearthway was nominated Thursday to become the 22nd and final member of Gov. Tom Corbett's Cabinet.
She was tapped to lead the Department of Labor and Industry.
Like several other Cabinet nominees, Ms. Hearthway, 54, of Pottstown, has a long work history in law enforcement. She has worked as chief deputy attorney for nearly two decades and as an assistant district attorney in Montgomery County for four years.
"I have first-hand experience of Julia's knowledge and work ethic, and I know she will be a valuable asset to the Department of Labor and Industry," said Mr. Corbett, who had been Ms. Hearthway's boss when he was attorney general.
In the office of attorney general, Ms. Hearthway managed the insurance fraud section. She also serves as chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Auto Theft Prevention Authority, a quasi-governmental agency that funds and coordinates a statewide strategy to fight auto theft.
Her nomination is subject to Senate confirmation. A date for her confirmation hearing has not been set.
If confirmed, one of Ms. Hearthway's first challenges as secretary will be to restore solvency to Pennsylvania's unemployment trust fund, said Sen. John Gordner, chairman of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee. The state has had to borrow $3.5 billion from the federal employment trust fund, said Mr. Gordner, R-Columbia.
He said Ms. Hearthway also will need to work to reduce the state's 8 percent unemployment rate, to weigh in on legislative proposals that would increase the minimum wage and to prevent the depletion of a fund used to provide benefits to injured workers whose employers failed to make required payments into the workers' compensation system.
Sen. Tina Tartaglione of Philadelphia, the ranking Democrat on the Labor and Industry Committee, wasn't surprised that the governor picked a former employee for the job rather than someone with a work history in labor and industry.
"I think he's bringing in people he trusts, people he's worked with before," she said.
The department will have more challenges than usual during the next four years because so many people are out of work and because the growing natural gas drilling industry is expected to change the economic landscape.
Ms. Tartaglione wants assurances that Ms. Hearthway will work to ensure out-of-state gas companies hire Pennsylvanians instead of bringing existing work crews from other places.
The Department of Labor and Industry has 6,000 employees who oversee the administration of unemployment and workers' compensation benefits. The department also enforces workplace laws, administers community service programs, provides training to prepare job seekers for the workforce and promotes economic development.
First Published April 1, 2011 12:00 am