Legislation to be Sent to Governor’s Desk
HARRISBURG – A measure that would strip taxpayer-funded pensions from public employees and lawmakers who commit job-related felonies received final approval in the Senate today, according to state Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23) who supported the measure.
Senate Bill 113 was approved by the Senate on February 4th, and was returned to the chamber for consideration after the House of Representatives made a technical amendment. It now goes to the governor for enactment.
The measure closes the “Mellow Loophole,” named after former State Senator Bob Mellow of Lackawanna County, who in 2017 had his $245,000-a-year pension restored despite pleading guilty and being sent to prison on federal conspiracy charges.
The Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act currently requires a public employee to forfeit his or her pension only for certain crimes listed in the act. In practice, this law allows lawmakers and other public employees charged with a forfeiture crime to plead guilty to a different non-forfeiture crime in order to avoid pension forfeiture.
Senate Bill 113 would require pension forfeiture if a public employee or public official is convicted, pleads guilty, or pleads no contest to any felony offense related to his or her employment.
“Rewarding bad behavior is something that cannot and should not be tolerated in state government or anywhere,” Sen. Yaw said. “It is time to hold those accountable who break the public trust.”
The legislation also ensures that criminal convictions involving public officials are reported to state pension boards. Current law does not require the employee, courts, or state agencies to send copies of court records upon conviction. Instead, pension boards learn of pension forfeiture cases through agency websites and newspaper articles.
Under Senate Bill 113, courts would now be required to notify state pension systems of all pension forfeiture cases.
Rita Zielonis, Chief of Staff