Last Modified: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 6:31 PM
Should politicians who have been convicted of a felony forfeit their state retirement benefits?
That is a serious question that needs to be considered but it will have to be done through a vote of the people on a constitutional amendment.
House Bill No. 42 addresses that subject and is currently being considered by the Legislature. Also being considered are House Bills 9 and 10 that would allow judges to strip state pensions from future public officials and employees convicted of corruption.
The amendment would “provide for legislative authority with respect to the forfeiture of retirement benefits by person who are convicted of certain felonies; to provide for submission of the proposed amendment to the electors; and to provide for related matters.”
Before it goes to the people for a vote, it will have to be approved by two-thirds of each house of the Legislature. It would be on the Nov. 6 ballot this year if it does pass.
A clarification was added to the original wording of the bill to make it clear that for the forfeiture to take effect, the felony conviction must be associated with the person’s service in any public office or position.
Currently the state constitution prohibits diminishing or impairing members’ accrued benefits in any state or statewide retirement system. Rep. Simone B. Champagne, R-Jeanerette, is the primary author of HB 42 that would change that.
The bill has been read and is current in the House Committee on Retirement for consideration.
Bills 9 and 10 were authored by Tony Ligi, R-Metairie, received a unanimous vote in favor it and is going to the Senate for consideration.
Crimes which could trigger the forfeiture of retirement benefits would be limited to a public servant or a third party who realized financial gain or sex crimes the servant committed on a minor that were somehow connected to his position.
If a judge orders retirement benefits forfeited, the employees would receive a refund of their contributions to the systems but not the amount contributed by the government or any gains on those contributions. The judge would also order that the refund be used to pay restitution for losses incurred from the corruption.
The bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Retirement.
Hopefully, these bills will be passed and be a deterrent to keep public officials from going astray.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.