Bill would allow commissioner to stay on board, set record

A bill that recently passed the state Senate by a 49-0 vote was
written for one man. I bet you haven’t heard about it.

Emerging by a unanimous vote out of the Senate Game and
Fisheries Committee a few weeks ago, Senate Bill 450 will amend
Title 30 – also known as the Fish Code – if it is approved by the
House and signed by the governor. The measure will eliminate the
rule that prevents a board member of the Pennsylvania Fish &
Boat Commission from serving for more than six months after his or
her term ends.

SB 450 would allow a member to continue to serve until a successor
is appointed and seated. And it doesn’t affect the Game Commission.
So that means Commissioner Bill Sabatose, of Elk County – the
second-longest-serving commissioner of all time, whose term expires
this summer – could continue to serve indefinitely if no
replacement is appointed.

Under Gov. Rendell, a rule was made that commission members would
not be reappointed, to get new blood on the boards of the
resource-management agencies. But Sabatose has lobbied lawmakers to
remain on the Fish & Boat Commission board. Apparently he has
found a sympathetic ear with Sen. Donald White, R-41st, who
introduced the legislation.

Sabatose revealed recently that he needs to serve on the Fish &
Boat Commission for 100 more days after his term expires to be the
longest-serving commissioner in the state’s history. “I want the
record, I admit it,” he said. “I want to go for it. I hope people
don’t think less of me, But I do a good job of being a
commissioner. I will serve on the board as long as they let

In a recent column, I wrote that this situation was “sad,”
contending that legislation should not be written for one guy, that
rules should not be changed or bent for one commissioner. Sabatose
– who is widely credited for spurring the recovery from pollution
of the Clarion River – is not the first commissioner to want to
continue serving past his term.

I was a member of former Gov. Ed Rendell’s Advisory Council for
Hunting, Fishing and Conservation that decided it was time to
change the rules and stop the almost automatic reappointments of
members to the agency boards.

When I started covering the commissions a long time ago, they
seemed like good old boys clubs that you had to be retired to serve
on. Guys would be reappointed time after time whether they deserved
it or not. I found it troubling.

I remember covering a Fish & Boat Commission meeting years ago
in which three board members fell asleep. Honest! Ironically,
Sabatose remembers it too – he was on the board, and he was

But maybe I’m wrong. Sabatose is a good guy, and a dedicated
commissioner. Maybe he should be permitted to set his record – it
does seem harmless enough. Then we can have a party for him. And he
can step down and let somebody else deserving who was chosen by the
governor take his place.

Perhaps I take this stuff too seriously.

What do you think?


Categories: Pennsylvania – Jeff Mulhollem

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