Pennsylvania's Labor Secretary Leaves Department in Good Shape

A Jan. 25 report on the performance of Pennsylvania's state agencies has good things to say about the Department of Labor & Industry, which needs a new administrator now that Labor & Industry Secretary Stephen M. Schmerin has gone. Gov. Edward Rendell announced Schmerin's resignation effective today after five years in the department's top job.

"When I appointed Steve, I challenged him to help me build a better Pennsylvania," Rendell said. "Over the past five years, he has met that challenge by helping to ensure that the state's workers, employers, and insurers have the resources they need to operate and succeed in today's global economy. His experience and passion will be greatly missed."

DLI is the fifth-largest state agency with more than 6,000 employees in 200 statewide offices. Under Schmerin's direction, they have increased collections from enforcement of labor laws, reduced the average time needed to process a workers' comp claim from 12.7 months in 1996 to an all-time low of 8.1 months, and reached 1 million workers who are covered by state-certified workplace safety committees. Businesses save 5 percent on their comp premiums by having a state-certified committee, and DLI says total savings to date are $268 million, with $39 million of that realized in 2006-07. The cut in average claim processing time came mainly from the department's implementation of Act 147, which makes claims mediation and rotation of workers' comp judges mandatory. The department also changed the unemployment and comp systems during Schmerin's tenure to allow claimants to receive benefits faster through a debit card program.

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