Christine Stuart photo
Rep. Chris Caruso (Christine Stuart photo)

The Democrat-controlled House passed an ethics reform and pension revocation bill Tuesday, but it didn’t pass the Senate version of the bill.

Instead, it amended the bill and carved out state employee unions from a provision that allows a judge to take away the pension of a corrupt public official.

Under the House amendment, which narrowly passed by a vote of 79 to 71, state employees would not be subject to pension revocation. Instead, any state or municipal employee that commits a felony against the state may have a judge reduce their pension through fines, penalties, and the cost of incarceration.

Rep. Chris Caruso, D-Bridgeport, defended his decision to amend the bill saying it makes it stronger, while Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said all the amendment does is lower the punishment for a state employee. “Why do we want to treat them differently?” Cafero asked.

Caruso said a state employee’s pension is negotiated as part of a collective bargaining agreement and the state can’t take away those rights. “A contract is a contract,” he said.

“I’m disappointed they passed an amendment that weakens the bill,” Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, said Tuesday outside the Senate chamber. The Senate had passed the bill by a 35 to 0 vote on April 16.

Slossberg said the Senate will ultimately have to reconsider the bill because, “We have to have a law in this state that says if you’re a corrupt state official, you don’t get a public pension.”

The amended bill passed the House by a vote of 90 to 60.

As time runs out, it looks like the Senate may have to pass the House version of the bill to get it to the governor’s desk before the end of the session. If the General Assembly fails to pass the bill it will be the fourth year in a row it was unable to get any sort of ethics reform passed.

It’s not clear if Gov. M. Jodi Rell will sign the revised version, but she said in an emailed statement Tuesday that “The action today in the House significantly weakens the compromise ethics bill and I believe it undermines its intent. If the goal was to use parliamentary maneuvers to derail the ethics bill, then today’s action was a rousing success.”

The bill passed by the House still allows a judge to revoke the pension of an elected or appointed public official, makes witnessing or accepting a bribe a crime, and prohibits state contractors from offering a state employee a job if they participated in awarding the firm the contract.