After Losing One of Their Own to Corruption, Pennsylvania House Revises Ethics Rules

by | January 4, 2017 AT 2:00 PM

By Karen Langley

The Pennsylvania House on Tuesday made it possible to more quickly expel members who are convicted of certain crimes.

The change in House rules came on the day Rep. Leslie Acosta, D-Philadelphia, resigned, following a March plea to a federal corruption charge.

The expedited process would apply to a legislator in Ms. Acosta's circumstance before her resignation, said spokesmen for the House Republican and Democratic leaders.

Under the new rules, if a House member pleads guilty or no contest or is found guilty of a crime related to the office or a crime that renders a legislator constitutionally ineligible, then the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Ethics Committee would be authorized to request a resolution of expulsion that would appear on the voting calendar for the next session day.

"If a member has pled guilty or no contest or is convicted by a court of law and a jury, then there can be a vote to expel them immediately, as opposed to waiting until they are sentenced," said House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin. "This streamlines it and gives the committee a little extra oomph to be able to do it."

The changes to House rules, which were voted on as a group, were negotiated by leaders of both parties and were approved by the House 167-32 after members were sworn into office to begin their new two-year terms.

Ms. Acosta was already running unopposed for re-election when the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that she had quietly pleaded guilty to a role in an embezzlement scheme that allegedly involved her former boss at a mental health clinic where she was employed before taking office. She won another term in November, but mid-December, amid calls that she step down, announced she would resign.

The new House rules also strengthen the ability of the Ethics Committee to hire outside counsel and issue subpoenas, Mr. Miskin said.

(c)2017 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette