Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner just kicked off his second term in office.
State Rep. Martina White wants to bar him from having a third.
White — a Northeast Philadelphia Republican and ally of the police union, one of Krasner’s biggest critics — introduced a bill earlier this week that would limit the city’s district attorney to serving two four-year terms.
In an interview, White called the proposal a “good government reform bill” that would prevent any DA from becoming “entrenched.” The bill, which faces steep odds of becoming law, applies only to Philadelphia, and only to the city’s elected prosecutor.
White said term limits were fitting for that office — and not others, such as hers — because the DA has an unusual amount of power to shape the city’s criminal justice system.
And although she insisted she would have backed such a proposal no matter who the DA was, White was critical of Krasner. Without naming him, she suggested he has used the office for “personal political gain” and made the city unsafe. The police union has leveled similar critiques against the reform-oriented Krasner throughout his tenure, criticisms Krasner has called baseless and politically motivated.
“I think two terms is appropriate regardless of who is [DA], I just think at this point in time … it’s even more appropriate to get this legislation passed,” White said.
Krasner’s spokesperson, Jane Roh, blasted White’s proposal as “anti-democratic” and a waste of time. State legislators, she said, should be focusing on issues such as COVID-19 relief, gun violence prevention, and the overdose crisis.
“Philadelphians deserve serious and competent leadership to address the multiple public health and safety crises made worse by Rep. White’s own inaction,” said Roh.
White’s bill would face a number of obstacles before having any chance of becoming law.
It’s not clear when or if the House Judiciary Committee might consider it, or how it would fare in a vote in the full chamber. Jason Gottesman, spokesperson for House Republicans, said the bill “is not on any specific timeline right now.”
Gov. Tom Wolf — a Democrat, like Krasner — would also likely have the ability to veto the proposal if it passed both the House and Senate. And even if Wolf signed the bill into law, it would likely face challenges in court.
White’s proposal is not the first legislative effort with potentially thorny consequences for Krasner, who has become a frequent target of state and national Republicans even after he cruised to reelection in November.
Last year, White introduced a bill that would allow voters the power to recall a host of elected officials, including governors and district attorneys. It stalled after State Rep. Frank Ryan, a Lebanon County Republican, amended it to apply only to Philadelphia. Ryan denied that that amendment was aimed at the DA.
In 2019, lawmakers passed a measure that gave the state Attorney General’s Office equal jurisdiction in prosecuting some city gun cases. Krasner and some supporters criticized the law, although it seems to have had little impact in the years since. Gottesman said Republicans still plan to reintroduce a version of the law this year.