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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ohio's New Bills in the Hopper

COLUMBUS (TDB) -- New bills were tossed into the legislative hopper today, and the one that will get the big headlines is the plan to move the higher education Chancellor into the governor's cabinet. Another headline grabber: Eminent domain changes that trim the legal authority of cities to take property.

But the reform proposed in SB3 -- a reform long overdue -- could go a long way toward cleaning up government. If the measure passes, a public official would forfeit a state pension upon conviction of a felony if serving in office.

Call it the Bob Ney Law. The Republican Congressman from Ohio kept his retirement pay even as he went to prison after being snared in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Ney's misconduct ended with a monthly check from the taxpayers for the rest of his life. SB3 would not impact federal pensions, obviously, but it would pinch the pockets of Ohio's boodlers. This is the Republican plan:

"Senators Faber, Schaffer, Stivers, Jacobson, Carey, Grendell, Schuring
To amend sections 145.56, 145.95, 742.47, 2967.16, 2967.17, 3307.41, 3309.66, 3309.95, and 5505.22 and to enact sections 145.572, 742.463, 2907.151, 3307.372, 3309.672, and 5505.262 of the Revised Code to provide that the privilege of holding a position of honor, trust, or profit that is forfeited by reason of conviction of a felony is not restored on completion of a prison term, period of community control sanctions or pardon or release by the Adult Parole Authority and to provide that the office holder will forfeit the portion of any state retirement benefit that is based on employer contributions.

"Sec. 145.572. (A) As used in this section:
(1) "Position of honor, trust, or profit" has the same meaning as in section 2967.16 of the Revised Code.
(2) "Accumulated contributions" has the same meaning as in section 145.01 of the Revised Code, but also includes employee contributions made under section 145.85 of the Revised Code and any earnings on those contributions.
(B) A public employees retirement system member who pleads guilty to or is convicted of a felony under the laws of any jurisdiction committed while serving in a position of honor, trust, or profit shall forfeit to the public employees retirement system the right to a retirement allowance or disability benefit or any other right or benefit under this chapter earned by reason of being a member of the retirement system other than the member's accumulated contributions. In the case of a member subject to withholding under section 145.57 of the Revised Code for the purpose of restitution, forfeiture shall commence immediately following the completion of restitution.
(C) If the public employees retirement board receives notice pursuant to section 2907.151 of the Revised Code or has knowledge that a member is charged with a felony committed while serving in a position of honor, trust, or profit, the board shall make no payment of any allowance, benefit, or accumulated contributions under this chapter prior to the final disposition of the felony charge. Payments suspended under this division shall not resume unless the charge is dismissed or the member is found not guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity."

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