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House Speaker Biographies


 

Herbert Fineman

Born: July 4, 1920, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA.  Died: August 18, 2016, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA.  Member of the House: Philadelphia County, 27th District, 1955-1964 and 4th District, 1965-1966 and the 194th Legislative District, representing part of Philadelphia County, 1967-May 23, 1977.  Affiliation: Democrat.

Herbert Fineman attended public schools in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  He graduated as valedictorian in 1938 from Overbrook High School in Philadelphia.  Fineman graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in commerce from Temple University in 1942 and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Temple University School of Law in 1945.  Upon graduation, Fineman established a private law practice and was an attorney his entire life. Fineman married Frances Brownstein on February 20, 1944, who died in June of 2016.  They had two children, Jan and Jon, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

In 1968 Fineman received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.  In November of 1954, he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 1955-1956 session.  He was re-elected for 11 more successive terms.

During Special Session No. 1 of 1964, Fineman was the prime sponsor of legislation which became Act 6, to reform eminent domain in Pennsylvania.  In 1968 Fineman was the cosponsor of House Resolution 207, which initiated the modernization of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  This resolution allowed for a commission to be appointed to recommend changes to the legislature.  Fineman wanted the legislature to stand as an equal branch of government, “capable of responding to the needs of Pennsylvania for social, economic, and political progress.”  Also in 1968, Fineman was the cosponsor of the first Minimum Wage Law in Pennsylvania, or Act 5, which required employers to pay $2.65 for each hour of work.   

Fineman served as the Democratic Whip in 1965-1966 and as the Democratic Leader for two sessions: 1967-1968 and 1973-1974.  Fineman was elected the first Jewish Speaker of the House from 1969-1972.  He was re-elected Speaker from 1975-1977.  He would later resign from the House on May 23, 1977.

As Speaker, Fineman was the prime sponsor of the legislation that became known as the Tax Reform Code of 1971.  One significant change to the tax code was Act 2 of 1971, which was the addition of a personal income tax.  Fineman was Speaker for two Special Sessions of the House in 1972: Special Session No. 1, regarding flood relief for victims of the 1972 flood and Special Session No. 2, regarding voter registration for flood victims.  On May 19, 1976, Fineman presided over the special legislative session commemorating the bicentennial observance at Independence Mall.  One of his last legislative actions was in November of 1976, with the adoption of House Resolution 301, establishing the Legislative Office of Research Liaison, a nonpartisan research agency for the House.

In the community, Fineman was a member of the Philadelphia County Pennsylvania Appellate Courts, the Philadelphia Bar Association, the American Jewish Congress, the Lawyers’ Club of Philadelphia, Justice Lodge of B’nai B’rith, and the Circus Saints and Sinners Club of America.  Fineman was a board member for Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc.  He served as the president of the National Conference of State Legislative Leaders in 1973-1974.  In 1974 the National Conference of State Legislative Leaders met with the National Legislative Conference and the National Society of State Legislators to form the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Herbert Fineman died on August 18, 2016 in the city of Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.  He is interred at Haym Solomon Memorial Park in Frazer, Chester County, Pennsylvania.


Historical Member Biography

To view this Speaker's House Historical Biography, click here.