York's director of economic and community development planned to step aside next week, in order to run for a seat in the state House of Representatives.
But thanks to a recent federal rule change, Kevin Schreiber should be able to stay on the job.
Schreiber said early on Wednesday that he would resign his post effective Feb. 8 in accordance with the Hatch Act, a 1939 federal law that prohibits civil servants who oversee the spending of federal funds from running for public office. A small portion of Schreiber's city economic development budget comes from such funds, he said.
But the rules have changed.
According to Ann O'Hanlon, spokeswoman with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the act was recently updated. Now, the funding prohibition holds only for those whose salary comes entirely from federal money, she said.
As of this week, those with a more remote connection to federal dollars can both campaign and keep their job, she said.
It's a change that will open up the political process, O'Hanlon said, and one that the Office of Special Counsel had been pushing.
"We thought it had become absurd," she said. "You had people who wanted to help, and they couldn't serve their community."
Schreiber, a Democrat running for the vacated seat in the 95th state House District, could not be reached for comment on the rule change Wednesday night. It was unclear if he'd try to retain his city position.
The law has long drawn criticism from some who say it stifled political participation.
Former state Rep. Eugene DePasquale has said because of the Hatch Act he needed years ago to resign his post with the state to run for office. But DePasquale said last year that's a gamble many can't afford to take.
"It knocks out a whole lot of good potential candidates in both parties," said DePasquale, who now serves as state Auditor General.
Schreiber, who's running for DePasquale's former state House seat, said before word of the change that his resignation would bring "mixed emotions." He said he still had work to do in the city.
Mayor Kim Bracey called the would-be departure "bittersweet."
"I'm very happy for Kevin, and for the city and the district," she said. "But I hate to see him go."
The Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 "will allow hundreds of thousands of state and local government employees to participate more actively in the democratic process in their communities," according to an Office of Special Counsel release.
It also keeps that office, in charge of enforcing the law, further removed from local politics, O'Hanlon said.
"We here in Washington shouldn't be reaching into all of these local communities," she said. "It's a helpful change."
Hatch Act history
The Hatch Act, a 1939 federal law that limits the partisan activity of government employees, has in recent years affected several York County candidacies.
--- Former state Rep. Eugene DePasquale resigned from his post with the state Department of Environmental Protection when he first ran for office because of the Hatch Act.
--- Kyle King, chief administrator for the York County District Attorney's Office and a Republican challenger to DePasquale in 2012, withdrew from the race because of the Hatch Act.
--- Former Springettsbury Township Police Chief David Eshbach, whose office received federal funds, retired in 2011 so he could continue his run for district judge and not violate the Hatch Act.