Lopez’s SB 248 has many serious flaws

June 19, 2014

Sen. Ernie Lopez recently introduced Senate Bill 248 which would terminate the state pensions for state employees vested after the passage of this bill, when said state employees commit serious felonies. I have to wonder why he is expending time and effort on a bill that could ultimately cost the state more money than any purported savings.

A convicted felon who is old enough to draw a pension has a very little chance of finding a job that pays a living wage. So there is a good possibility that this person will collect food stamps and be eligible for government assistance.  I wouldn’t call that sound fiscal policy.

The bill has a “clean hands” provision that allows the spouse of a convicted felon her/his share of the pension if it is ascertained she/he knew nothing of the crime. But spousal benefits are a percentage of the full pension. So the spouse and the convicted felon may very well be forced to try to survive on a reduced pension. And if there are dependent children, aren’t they also being punished?  So again the state may likely have to subsidize the income of this family.  

I also have to ask why Senator Lopez thinks that once a person pays his debt to society based on the judgment of the judicial branch of government, the legislative branch should step in and add additional punishment. The justice system determines when a convicted person has paid his debt to society. Yet Senator Lopez wants legislation that would never allow the debt to be fully paid.  

With all the bills that Senator Lopez could be sponsoring that would improve the quality of life for his constituents, why is he sponsoring a flawed bill that hurts innocent children and spouses, will probably cost the state more than any savings in unpaid pensions, and may very well blur the line between branches of government. It’s time for Senator Lopez to re-evaluate his priorities and sponsor bills that will help his constituents.

Thomas J. O’Hagan

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