HARRISBURG — Senator Baker voted “yes” on Senate Bill 113, which closes a serious loophole in Pennsylvania’s pension forfeiture law and provides that the pension systems be informed when such cases produce a conviction or plea. Her statement:
“Pennsylvania’s pension forfeiture law was approved years ago as a meaningful anti-corruption measure. Unfortunately, over time, a significant loophole has become apparent, one that will be exploited more frequently unless a fix is approved. Individuals facing criminal charges can sometimes plead guilty to a non-forfeiture crime in order to protect their pensions. Taxpayers are understandably outraged when such evasions of penalties come to light.
With too many incidents of public corruption in recent years, state legislators must make sure that the consequences for official corruption are severe and certain.
Taxpayers and voters give tremendous trust and responsibility to elected and appointed officials. They count on us to act with wisdom, fairness, and integrity, and to never forget the public interest comes first. Laws should be strict enough to discourage wrongdoing.
Reform legislation I supported will close down this avenue for escaping pension forfeiture. Public employees who are convicted, plead guilty, or plead no contest to a job-related felony would lose their taxpayer-funded pension. The principle is important, whether the pension is large or small. The notification provision closes a smaller loophole that allows individuals to collect payments when there is a delay in the pension system becoming aware of a forfeiture situation.
The statutes pertaining to crimes and sentencing can change through legislative action or court rulings. So we have to make sure that the rules governing pension forfeiture are sufficiently comprehensive.
When public officials are charged and convicted of crimes, it is not a question of innocent mistakes or matters of harmless confusion. These are intentional decisions adverse to ethics and law that warrant prosecution and punishment.”
For additional information on the bill, click here.
Andrew M. Seder