2019 Session: Bill Would Strip State Pensions from Felons

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A new Arkansas senator is working to fulfill his campaign promise to tackle ethics reform in state government.

Under the bill sponsored by St. Sen.-elect Mark Johnson, R-Ferndale, state employees, including elected officials, would lose their retirement if convicted of a felony for abusing their office.

“If you’re a crook that stole from the taxpayers as part of your job that you were trusted with then that’s when you would lose your pension,” Johnson said.

Questions remain in the legislature if state employees would lose their entire pension or be able to keep the income they paid in to the system.

“There is some debate about that,” Johnson said. “States do it both ways.” 

Half the states in the country have some sort of pension forfeiture law, and they run the gamut. Some strip state employees of their retirement for any crime in office, while others allow convicts to pass down their pension to a family member. 

Arkansas will have to decide how far it will go.

“We will comply with all of the court precedents to address that to not only do the correct thing but also the thing that ensures the integrity of the pension systems for all of our state employees,” Johnson said.

One of Johnson’s colleagues filed a similar bill the same day he did. He said he plans to work with Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, on the legislation once the session starts. It has already received the thumbs up from other notable Republicans, like Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin.

“I don’t think he’ll have any issue getting it passed,” Griffin said during the latest episode of Capitol View. “That’s a great incentive or disincentive for would-be criminals.”

The 92nd General Assembly convenes Jan. 14 for its regular session. 

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