Wolf will sign expanded pension forfeiture legislation. But why stop there? | Thursday Morning Coffee

March 21, 2019 7:07 am

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Reminding us that some reform is better than no reform at all, we’re going to throw a shout-out in the general direction of state Sen. John DiSanto, whose bill expanding the list of offenses that can cause a public employee to lose his or her taxpayer-funded pension is now destined for a gubernatorial signature.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says he plans to sign the bill that DiSanto, a Dauphin County Republican, managed to get through the House and Senate in what passes for record time for the General Assembly. It was just about a week ago, after all, that the bill was a glimmer in a state House committee’s eye.

As The Capital-Star’s ever-intrepid Stephen Caruso reports, DiSanto’s bill adds perjury and bribery to the list of offenses that’ll cost anyone on the public payroll — from state employees and legislators to rank-and-file bureaucrats — their state retirement.

The bill also closes the so-called “Mellow Loophole” that let public officials who were found guilty of federal offenses hang onto their state pension.

The loophole was named for former Democratic state Sen. Bob Mellow, of Lackawanna County, who won a lawsuit in late 2017 to have his pension restored off the technicality. Mellow pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

“This reform should have passed last session but it died in the House without a final vote,” DiSanto said in a statement. “I kept up the pressure on leadership to bring it back, and I appreciate that both the House and Senate agreed it was a priority for this session. I am committed to reforming our government and protecting taxpayers, and this is just the start of what needs to be done.” DiSanto said.

In a statement, Wolf said ““providing lifelong benefits to those who have committed serious crimes, especially those related to their elected office, is a betrayal of the public’s trust.

“I am eager to sign this legislation but I urge the General Assembly to take on more ethics reforms, including reforming Pennsylvania’s utterly insufficient campaign finance system,” Wolf added. “Public officials should be held to the highest possible standard and we should expect more out of them and our government.”

Baby steps, Gov. Wolf. Baby steps. And if you wanted to put some muscle behind it, that would be good, too.

Our Stuff:
Sarah Anne Hughes, Stephen Caruso and Elizabeth Hardison
 close out our Brain-Drain series by running down every legislative initiative under heaven and earth, Horatio, to keep the yutes in Pennsylvania.
Capital-Star Washington reporter Allison Stevens profiles U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.who made some waves last week by breaking with the Trump White House over its border declaration.
With the 40th anniversary of America’s worst nuclear disaster upon us, veteran sages Terry Madonna and Michael Young revisit Gov. Dick Thornburgh’s leadership role during the Three Mile Island crisis.

On the opinion side of the house, an ACLU legal expert says the U.S. Supreme Court  could soon hear a case that could determine whether prosecutors can strike black jurors who agreed with the O.J. Simpson verdict.

Philly DA Larry Krasner says he wants to make fixing ‘mass supervision’ the next criminal justice reform his office helps tackle, The Inquirer reports.
Harrisburg city officials want to shrink the 12-lane expansion that PennDOT has planned for I-83 in Harrisburg, PennLive reports.
Detroit police have charged Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner, and her husband, for an incident at a hotel thereThe Post-Gazette reports.
Arnold Palmer Airport in Westmoreland County is in line for its 2 millionth passengerThe Tribune-Review reports. We can’t help but wonder if he or she will get a free glass of … well… y’know …
Touring the Slate Belt, state officials punched up the need to fight blight, The Morning Callreports.

What Happens on Twitter:
BillyPenn has a pic of Philly’s famed Coffee Can of Destiny and a story about Philly council candidates grooving on their ballot position.
Pittsburgh has (sort of) shelved its assault weapons banThe Incline reports.
A Philly state Rep wants to give city voters the power to oust embattled Councilman Bobby HenonWHYY-FM reports.
One person is dead after a police-involved shooting in State CollegeWPSU-FM reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

PoliticsPA readers think Alan Butkovitz should be the next Democratic nominee for Philly mayor.
Republicans are unexpectedly joining the ranks of death penalty abolitionistsStateline.orgreports.
Kamala Harris ‘put Beto on notice’ with a trip to TexasPolitico reports.

What Goes On:
11 a.m., Media Center: Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announces Turnpike Commission audit
4 p.m., Main Rotunda: Rally for fair pay for ‘all’ working people

Gov. Tom Wolf 
heads to Philly for a 10:30 a.m. newser announcing a plan “to remediate contaminants from Pennsylvania schools.” It’s awful that something like that even needs to exist in the first place.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
Bucks County’s freshman (GOP, we think) state representatives throw themselves a bash at The Buck Hotel  in Feasterville-Trevose, Pa. Invited guests include ex-Guv Mark Schweiker, ex-LG Jim Cawley, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and Bucks County GOP Chair Patricia Poprik. Admission runs $500 to $10,000.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s one from Beirut, it’s ‘Gulag Orkestar.’

Thursday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Winnipeg blanked Anaheim 3-0 on Wednesday night. The Jets are now three points clear at the top of the Central Division.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.