Harrisburg, April 24, 2018 – The state Senate Judiciary Committee today unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Senators Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) and Pat Stefano (R-Fayette) that would fix a quirk in the restitution law by clarifying that government entities and non-profits are eligible to collect restitution.
The measure was spurred by a local news account concerning Robert Kerns, who was convicted of stealing $832,000 from the taxpayers of Bethlehem Township. The state Superior court ruled that Kearns does not have to pay the money back because a municipality cannot qualify as a “victim” for the purposes of collecting restitution.
Calling the scenario “absurd,” Boscola said people are currently emboldened to “be sure and steal enough from the government to make it worthwhile because they don’t have to pay it back.”
“Crime Should never pay, but that’s what the decision allowed,” Boscola said.
After similar incidents occurred in Sen. Stefano’s senate district, Boscola and Stefano agreed to work on a bipartisan correction (Senate Bill 897) to the legal loophole. They worked closely with statewide District Attorneys’ Association and Office of Victim Advocate to draft legislation.
Boscola said taxpayers and individuals who donate to charities are “people.” Government does not exist without people’s money and charities fail without donors.
“This money needs to be protected,” Boscola said. “I am pleased by the strong bipartisan support in committee.”
Following today’s committee vote, Senate Bill 897 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
“We need to ensure that those who steal from taxpayers or charities are obligated to pay it back”, Boscola said. “It’s just common sense.”
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