Pa. lawmakers convicted of a felony would be automatically expelled under new proposal

Supporters say the goal is to restore the public trust in state government.

Closeup of the Pennsylvania Capitol

The Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Monday, March 22, 2021. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

A proposed constitutional amendment being considered in Harrisburg would bring more clarity for when a politician charged with a crime must be forced out of office.

State Representatives Malcolm Kenyatta and co-sponsor Jared Solomon want voters statewide to decide whether it should be mandatory for lawmakers to be ejected from office once they’ve been convicted of a felony.

“When there’s been a violation of the public trust, I want to ensure that elected officials are held accountable,” Solomon said. “The way that we do that is, conviction equals resignation. So we gain back the public trust when elected officials that have been convicted of a crime are removed from office promptly and efficiently.”

As it stands now, lawmakers can remain in office while appealing their conviction. Solomon says that could take years to complete.

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“Name another job, where you get convicted of a crime and can remain in that job for years? I don’t know any,” Solomon said. “So why should elected leaders be treated any differently?”

The state representative said he believes this provision should have been in place for a long time, but courts have ruled differently in the past.

“This is actually not just common sense. It also improves our democracy by allowing new people to get elected to office who are going to represent their constituents and can work amongst their colleagues free of any other outside entanglement,” he said.

The change would require an amendment to the state constitution, which would have to be approved in two different sessions, and then sent to the voters. That process takes at least three years to complete.

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