(The Center Square) – A pair of Republican lawmakers want to expand the list of offenses that would render an elected official in Ohio ineligible for retirement or disability benefits.
House Bill 741 adds to the list felony offenses of extortion and perjury and a slew of federal violations, including racketeering. It also adds theft and bribery involving programs receiving federal funds; mail, wire and honest services fraud; and interference with commerce by threats or violence in violation of the “Hobbs Act.”
The proposal is similar to House Bill 284 from the 2015-16 legislative session. The state House passed the measure, but the state Senate did not consider it.
“This legislation will hopefully set a precedent of holding public officials who misuse their power more accountable,” state Rep. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, said in a news release. “Not only will it hold public officials more accountable, but it’s also about protecting the taxpayers. Their hard-earned money should not be paying for the benefits of an elected official who faces federal convictions.”
The move is the latest in the wake of former House Speaker Larry Householder’s arrest.
Last week, a federal grand jury indicted Householder and four others as part of a $60 million federal racketeering conspiracy to pass and uphold House Bill 6, a ratepayer-funded bailout of Ohio nuclear plants. State lawmakers removed Householder as speaker of the House and elected state Rep. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, to the post.
“Public officials who betray the trust of the people of Ohio should not be able to benefit from taxpayer dollars – it’s important we put certain checks on those who abuse their elected position within our institution,” state Rep. Dave Greenspan, R-Westlake, said in a statement.
The proposal, which is awaiting its first hearing, would require the attorney general to work to terminate an officeholder’s benefit if the federal court chooses not to do so. It also allows the person who is convicted to request a hearing to consider the forfeiture.
Representatives for Greenspan, Manning and House Democrats did not immediately respond to requests for comment.