Hagan again targets felons, pension benefits



A similar bill introduced by the legislator six years ago went nowhere.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- State Rep. Robert F. Hagan wants all public employees and officials in Ohio to lose their pension benefits if convicted of a felony.
Hagan, of Youngstown, D-60th, said the timing is perfect to introduce the bill, which is similar but more far-reaching than a proposal he sponsored in 2001 that didn't even get a committee hearing.
The bill will be introduced in the Ohio House sometime this week, he said.
The bill introduction comes on the heels of:
The sentencing of ex-U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, a Heath Republican, to 30 months in federal prison for his role in a congressional bribery scandal.
Congress' moving ahead on a bill denying government pensions to federal lawmakers convicted of certain crimes.
New Gov. Ted Strickland's enacting tougher ethics standards in his administration.
Like the congressional proposal, Hagan's plan isn't retroactive.
"It can't be and that's truly frustrating to me," he said.
Hagan introduced a bill in 2001, when he was a state senator, to cut in half the retirement benefits of state employees and elected officials convicted of taking bribes in relation to their jobs. Hagan opted not to seek the removal of 100 percent of benefits at the time for the sake of family members.
How it's changed
Hagan's new proposal is tougher.
Instead of 50 percent, Hagan said his new proposal would strip 100 percent of the taxpayers' portion of pensions to any public employee or official in Ohio convicted of not only bribery, but any felony. The felon's personal contribution to a state retirement system would not be impacted, he said.
The new law would include not only those at the state level, but also those who work for counties, cities, villages, townships, school districts and other entities that have employees in any of the state's five retirement systems, he said.
"Any spouse of a politician who isn't aware corruption isn't on the front-burner" doesn't deserve the pension of a husband or wife convicted of a felony, Hagan said about changing the percentage from 50 percent to 100 percent.
Hagan is optimistic his bill will be considered by the state Legislature this session.
In 2001, Republicans held every elected executive office and controlled the state House and Senate. Republicans still control the Legislature, but hold the House by a smaller margin than the party did six years ago. Also, Democrats hold four of the five elected executive office posts, most notably Strickland.
"There's some compromise now, so I'm hopeful," Hagan said. "Legislators will be hard-pressed to ignore it now. I don't think they will ignore it."
skolnick@vindy.com

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