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Corbett says decision on next lottery move likely to come next week

| Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 12:45 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | For the Tr
Gov. Tom Corbett, a former social studies teacher, teaches a history lesson about the Battle of Gettysburg to students at Hampton Middle School in Allison Park on Friday, February 15, 2013. Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total media

Gov. Tom Corbett probably won't decide how to revive his attempt to privatize the state lottery until after Monday's holiday, he said on Friday.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane rejected Corbett's 20-year, $34 billion contract with a British firm to privatize the lottery management during her review of the proposal, saying it overstepped his office's authority.

The Republican governor's best chance to overturn the Democrat's decision is probably an appeal for state Supreme Court intervention, said Duquesne University law professor Bruce Ledewitz.

Corbett could try to rewrite the contract or get a quick vote from the Republican-dominated Legislature, but Kane's decision so closely challenges the limits of the governor's powers that the high court is the most likely place for a quick, definitive answer, Ledewitz said.

“I would think this is exactly the kind of case where the court might grant jurisdiction,” Ledewitz said, saying it's a close call with virtually no precedent in favor of either. It is “obviously politically extremely sensitive, and you're going to be breaking new ground no matter how they rule.”

Corbett said his administration is reviewing its options, only one of which he named: an appeal to Commonwealth Court. If he did that, he could then ask the state Supreme Court to use its “king's bench” power and take the case for immediate consideration, Ledewitz said.

“We believe we had the authority to do it in the first place. We told everybody we were doing it,” Corbett said when asked about the possibility of redoing the deal to address Kane's objections.

Kane wrote that the deal usurped the power of the Legislature and the power it gave the state Gaming Control Board.

“We don't believe that is an issue here,” Corbett said.

Kane spokeswoman Ellen Mellody declined to speculate on outcomes of the case or comment beyond the attorney general's statement on Thursday.

Corbett took questions from reporters after an assembly in Hampton Middle School, where he talked about Civil War history in Pennsylvania.

His staff is in talks with the sole bidder on the contract, Camelot Global Services PA, part of the company that runs the United Kingdom's National Lottery.

It has a deadline this week for a finalized agreement, and Corbett said one of his concerns is that the company could just abandon the deal without his administration's having a chance to fight Kane's decision.

A local spokesman for the company said its officials have no comment.

Department of Revenue spokeswoman Elizabeth Brassell said the Corbett administration is confident it can negotiate a short-term extension before the bid's expiration at 5 p.m. Saturday.

The governor also criticized Kane's staff for not giving his staff advance notice of the attorney general's decision.

They only found out about it from her news conference on Thursday, he said.

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

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