HARRISBURG, Pa. (Legal Newsline) - Two Pennsylvania lawmakers have introduced a bill that would make the state's attorney general wait at least four years after leaving office to run for governor.
State Reps. Babette Josephs, D-Philadelphia, and P. Michael Sturla, D-Lancaster, introduced House Bill 2118 last week.
It was referred to the House's state government committee on Jan. 17, according to the General Assembly's website. Josephs is the Democratic chair of the committee.
Josephs and Sturla say the measure addresses concerns that an attorney general could use the authority of the office to advance his or her political goals while still in office.
"The Office of Attorney General is of utmost importance to the people of Pennsylvania," Josephs said in a statement. "We need attorneys general who are passionate about justice. We want people who see the office as a career destination in and of itself. We should be encouraging candidates who want to be the lawyer of all the people to run for that job, not just folks who want to be in another 'higher' office.
"This bill is an attempt to put some checks into place to help cultivate candidates whom we know want to serve in this incredibly significant job."
Both Josephs and Sturla point to the Jerry Sandusky case.
The lawmakers note it has been suggested that charges were not filed against the former Penn State coach as quickly as in other child molestation case because former Attorney General Tom Corbett was running for governor.
"This measure will ensure that Pennsylvania's future attorneys' general actions will be free of any politically motivated prosecutions, or even the perception of them," Sturla said in a statement.
"This critical step must be adopted if we ever hope to restore the public's confidence in the Attorney General's Office."
If the bill passes, it would add an amendment to the state constitution requiring the four-year waiting period.
To become part of the constitution, the legislation will have to pass the General Assembly in two successive sessions and be approved by voters.
The lawmakers point out that a similar amendment already exists preventing the state treasurer from running for state auditor general within four years of leaving office.
Josephs explains that the prohibition keeps the auditor general from being placed in the inappropriate position of having to audit treasury accounts and decisions from when he or she served as treasurer.
The four-year gap eliminates any potential conflict, she says.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.