Davis seeks to build on new ethics law with gift ban for public officials, public employees

HARRISBURG, March 29 - On the heels of Gov. Tom Wolf signing legislation that requires public officials and employees convicted of job-related and other serious crimes to forfeit their pensions, state Rep. Tina Davis said she is renewing a push for her legislation to prevent bribery attempts at the state level.

Davis’ bipartisan legislation would prohibit Pennsylvania’s public officials and employees from accepting any gifts that would have potential to influence public policy. The bill would prohibit gifts in the form of hospitality, such as transportation or lodging, expensive dinners or tickets to sporting events, which she cited as common forms of what she calls bribery in the past.

“The new law will rightfully confiscate the pensions of public officials and employees who are convicted of serious felonies,” said Davis, D-Bucks. “My legislation seeks to stop people from getting into such situations in the first place by creating an additional level of security to ensure that bribery has no place in our Capitol.”

Her bill also would apply to applicants for state contracts. Additionally, to further increase transparency, financial reporting requirements would become more stringent.

“It’s sickening that in our state it is legal for special interest groups to bribe elected officials,” Davis said, “The lax limitations on the type and amount of gifts special interests can lavish on those who are elected to serve the people have created a perception of pervasive corruption in Pennsylvania."

Davis, who has introduced similar measures in the past four legislative sessions, said the reintroduction of her gift-ban legislation isn’t anything new, however, Rep. Thomas Murt, R-Montgomery, joined her in drafting the bill this year.

Davis said she's happy there is bipartisan agreement that the rules on accepting gifts need to be tightened, especially in light of the incidences of legislators and state department officials being arrested, jailed or fined due accepting such things in years past.

“Our bill strives to make Pennsylvania’s electoral process more open and transparent and government more accountable and responsive to the people, not the special interests,” Davis said.

“We need to keep building on positive change in Harrisburg, and this measure will help curtail these nauseating practices that destroy the public’s trust in their elected officials.”