House Bill Would Criminalize Campaigning On A Sick Day

May 13, 2015

Campaigning while convalescing will be a criminal act if State Rep. Tony DeLuca’s latest bill passes muster.

 

DeLuca, D-Penn Hills, introduced House Bill 1177 last week.

 

Public employees would face a misdemeanor charge, fines up to $1,000 and up to a year in prison for canvassing neighborhoods, planning elections and political fundraising while using sick time granted by their employer. The bill would also prohibit circulating nomination petitions or papers and participating in organized telephone campaigns that could influence the outcome of an election.

 

Sick time, including time taken under the Family Medical Leave Act, should be used for its intended purpose, DeLuca said.

 

“I didn’t know people could do that – that individuals could take family medical leave and use up all their sick time, because you have to take your sick time first and be able to campaign,” he said. “I find that outrageous. That’s not what sick time is all about.”

 

Public employees include laborers, administrators and clerical staff paid for by federal, state and municipal governments.

 

Barry Kauffman, executive director for Harrisburg-based lobby Common Cause Pennsylvania, said state scandals have prompted similar legislation in the past, but none passed to his knowledge. Campaigning for a cause or candidate is fine, he said, so long as those activities never occur on taxpayer time.

 

“It’s not that uncommon for people who work in legislators’ offices to go out and campaign on behalf of their boss on their personal time,” he said, “but they should not be doing it ever if they’re on the clock for the government.”

 

DeLuca said the bill stems from issues he heard from constituents this year. He declined to elaborate who might be campaigning for whom.

 

“I don’t want to make this an issue pertaining to a certain election,” he said.