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Pa. Gov. Wolf calls on legislators to tighten pension rules

Liz Navratil, HARRISBURG BUREAU

Updated: Thursday, December 7, 2017, 4:32 PM

Gov. Wolf wants tighter rules to revoke state pensions from officials convicted of crimes. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

HARRISBURG —Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday called on legislators to send him a bill that would expand the list of crimes that cause state employees to lose their pensions.

“Providing pensions to those who have committed crimes related to their elected offices is a betrayal of the public’s trust,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “Public officials should be held to the highest possible standard and we should expect more out of them and our government.”

His remarks came the same week the Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette broke news that a state board voted to restore the more than $245,000 annual pension for longtime state Sen. Robert Mellow, who was convicted of federal corruption charges.

State law currently requires public employees, including legislators, to automatically forfeit their pensions if they are convicted of a state crime that falls into one of 23 categories or a federal crime that is “substantially the same as” those crimes. Mellow lost his pension but got it back after a board voted 6-5 that his federal crime didn’t require him to lose the money

A bill sponsored by Rep. Scott Petri (R, Bucks) would expand that list to include “any crimes related to public office or public employment” and felonies or other crimes that could result in a prison term of more than five years. That bill passed the House in May and has remained in a Senate Finance committee.

A spokeswoman for Senate Republicans, who control the chamber, said she expects the bill to come up in the coming weeks, possibly early next year.

Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R, Venango) said he supports the bill and noted that a nearly identical bill sponsored by Sen. John DiSanto (R, Dauphin) passed through his committee and to the full Senate floor earlier this year. It has not yet left that chamber.

Hutchinson said he would like to see one of the bills advance. When he learned that Mellow’s pension was being restored, “I was taken aback….Just on the face of it, I was blown away.”

Liz Navratil, HARRISBURG BUREAU

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