Pa. House votes for tougher public pension forfeiture rules
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania state lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to make it harder for officials and government employees convicted of crimes related to their jobs to retain their public pensions.
The state House voted 194 to 1 to approve legislation that applies the pension forfeiture law to state and federal felonies and other crimes that could result in at least five years behind bars.
It also would forfeit pensions at the time a defendant pleads guilty or no contest, or is found guilty by a judge or jury.
Current law imposes pension forfeiture when a defendant is sentenced, leading to periods when someone who has lost their criminal case continues to receive benefits.
The bill passed the Senate unanimously last month. The bill was amended in the House, so another vote in the Senate is required for passage.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf supports the bill.
Part of the impetus for the bill was a decision in December 2017 by the State Employees’ Retirement Board to reinstate pension benefits of a former state Senate power broker who pleaded guilty to federal charges.
Former state Sen. Bob Mellow, D-Lackawanna, lost a $246,000-a-year pension after his 2012 plea to a conspiracy charge for using Senate staff to work on political campaigns.
His attorneys successfully argued to the pension board that Mellow’s case did not match up with state crimes that prompt pension forfeiture.