Several Pennsylvania lawmakers are planning to introduce a package of proposals that would allow the attorney general’s office to prosecute local officials in cases of corruption.
Currently, the attorney general is limited to prosecuting at the state and federal levels.
The three bills in the package are on track to be introduced in the next few weeks. They’re sponsored by a bipartisan group of senators, and their creation was inspired by a corruption case involving an incinerator project that racked up hundreds of millions of dollars in debt in Harrisburg.
Sen. John Blake, D-Lackawanna, sponsored the bill that expands the attorney general’s duties. He said it would make it easier for the state to prosecute important local cases.
“Under the current circumstances, if there was a situation where there’s been some [local] corruption, the only reason that the AG gets involved in that is if the local official refers it,” he said. “That was a time-consuming process.”
The change would mean some costs, he said.
“I think the attorney general himself said that if his powers were so expanded, he would require a budgetary adjustment to deal with that,” he said. “It could require additional prosecutors, it could require additional resources, and I think that’s something we need to be mindful of.”
Blake said he hasn’t yet looked into precedents for expanding the attorney general’s powers in other states, but plans to. He’s also awaiting feedback from local district attorneys, who would also be affected.
Two other bills in the package would allow public corruption prosecution even after an official leaves office, and expand government bidding requirements for service contracts.