HARRISBURG – Gov. Edward G. Rendell nominated Basil L. Merenda as Secretary of the Commonwealth, effective June 12. The nomination is subject to confirmation by the Pennsylvania Senate.
Merenda, 52, is currently deputy secretary for regulatory programs at the Department of State. Since joining the department in 2004 he has held various positions, including acting deputy secretary and commissioner of the department’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA). Governor Rendell nominated him as commissioner on Jan. 5, 2004; he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on March 16, 2004. As commissioner, he was responsible for overseeing the day-to-day functions of the bureau, which administers the commonwealth’s 29 professional licensing boards and commissions.
“I have known Basil for nearly 30 years, first as an undergraduate student and then as a summer legal intern when I was Philadelphia’s district attorney,” said Governor Rendell. “It has been a real pleasure seeing Basil grow and develop over the years into an accomplished attorney with a passion for public service and as a valued and effective member of my administration as BPOA commissioner. I fully expect Basil to bring the same work ethic and passion to his duties as secretary and look forward to working with him as a member of my cabinet.”
Rendell noted several bureau achievements under Merenda’s leadership, including:
• The promulgation of regulations to expand the scope of practice provisions for health care providers;
• The creation of a “triage” charging unit, which has protected the public by reducing the review and disposition of non-Mcare disciplinary cases to an all-time low;
• The formation of two new boards regulating massage therapists and crane operators; and
• The passage and implementation of Act 25 of 2009, which strengthened consumer protection by adding a provision raising the maximum fine the board imposes for violations of the licensing laws or regulations from $1,000 to $10,000, as well as authorizing the licensing boards to impose the costs of investigation.
Merenda said he is honored by the nomination and pledged to maintain the high quality of services at the Department of State. He is eager to work with staff to look for opportunities to improve.
“My father taught my brothers and me that a career in public service was one of the most important things a person can do in life and, if done the right way, you can make a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” Merenda said. “I was fortunate as a youngster to learn, up close and personal, by observing Gov. Rendell. He taught me that public service is a pure joy; it can be fun and you can make effective public policy if you do the research, bring people together and find common ground.”
Merenda will lead a 500-employee agency that oversees a diverse collection of administrative and regulatory bureaus that directly affect Pennsylvania residents. The department preserves the integrity of Pennsylvania’s electoral process; commissions notaries public; provides the initial infrastructure for establishing businesses through corporate filings; licenses nearly 800,000 active professionals; protects residents from fraudulent charities; and sanctions professional boxing, wrestling and mixed martial arts events held in Pennsylvania.
Prior to his work with the Department of State, Merenda served as deputy attorney general for the state of New Jersey, with emphasis on antitrust and financial crimes. He also served as legal counsel to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1776 in Norristown from 1987 to 1993.
A native and resident of Philadelphia, Merenda earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics from Villanova University, a master’s degree in Economics from the University of Notre Dame and a law degree from Villanova University Law School.