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State Senate confirms four Wolf cabinet members

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From left to right: Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of Human Services Theresa Miller, Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman, and Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Jennifer Smith.
From left to right: Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of Human Services Theresa Miller, Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman, and Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Jennifer Smith. - (Photo / )

They are acting no more: four mainstays in the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf were approved Tuesday to join his cabinet on a permanent basis.

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of Human Services Teresa Miller, Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Jennifer Smith and Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman were all approved by the state Senate.

Levine, who first joined Wolf’s cabinet as acting secretary of health after his 2014 election victory, was confirmed 49-1 by the legislative body, with the lone vote against coming from Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair County). As secretary, Levine has played a public role for several major programs within the health department, including the rollout of the state’s medical marijuana program and the Wolf administration’s response to the opioid crisis.

Miller first joined the administration as insurance commissioner in 2015 and assumed the duties of acting secretary of human services in August last year. She was confirmed to that position in another 49-1 vote, with Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill County) voting against her confirmation. 

Smith first joined the Department of Drug and Alcohol programs as deputy secretary in 2015 and took on the role of acting secretary after the dismissal of Secretary Gary Tennis in January 2017. Tennis was dismissed after a report by the Reading Eagle claimed he forced candidates for new positions at the department to meet with a lobbyist as part of the interview process. Tennis maintains he was fired over a budgeting dispute with the governor.

Smith was confirmed on Tuesday in a unanimous vote alongside Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman. Altman was appointed as acting commissioner in August last year and joined the department in 2015 as chief of staff to then-commissioner Miller.

Wolf congratulated the four women on their confirmations in a statement saying “they each bring unique experience to their respective positions, but they share the same passion to serve our commonwealth and its residents.”

In January 2017, Wolf announced plans to consolidate the Department of Health, Department of Human Services, Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, and the Department of Aging into one Department of Health and Human Services.

Despite touting endorsements of the plan from statewide health advocacy groups, the governor’s office has issued no schedule for the consolidation. Attempts to reach the governor’s office for an update on its progress were not immediately successful.

 

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