The Lead

Pension forfeiture bill becomes session’s first law with Wolf signature

By: - March 28, 2019 12:34 pm

A bill that requires elected officials and public employees to forfeit their pensions after committing a job-related felony became the session’s first law Thursday with Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature.

The legislation, introduced by Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin, expands the Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act, in part, by closing a loophole that allowed lawmakers accused of bribery to keep their pensions after pleading guilty or no contest to a lesser charge. That was the case of four former House members who took plea deals after being caught in a sting. Former Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, D-Philadelphia, fought the charges and was eventually convicted of bribery; she is appealing the ruling.

DiSanto previously cited the case of former state Sen. Robert Mellow, who pension was restored after he served time in federal prison for corruption.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously and the House with one no vote. A companion piece of legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Frank A. Farry, R-Bucks.

“I commend the General Assembly for taking this first step towards greater ethics reform in state government. I look forward to continued progress in this area. It’s frustrating when we know someone has committed a serious crime, but we still have to pay them a pension using taxpayer money. That’s just not fair to honest, hardworking Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said in a statement. “Closing this loophole is an important step in ensuring public officials and employees who betray the people of Pennsylvania are held accountable.”

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Sarah Anne Hughes
Sarah Anne Hughes

Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes covers the governor and Pennsylvania's agencies. Before joining the Capital-Star, she was the state capitol reporter for Billy Penn and The Incline, and a 2018 corps member for Report for America. She was previously managing editor of Washington City Paper, editor-in-chief of DCist, and a national blogger for The Washington Post.