By Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) – Reacting to reports of a sting operation that caught several prominent Philadelphia Democrats, a Pennsylvania Senate committee has advanced a bill that would make it illegal for public officials and employees to accept cash gifts from people seeking to influence public policy.

The bill approved by the Senate State Government Committee would make it a felony to accept cash gifts over $250. Under $250, it would be a misdemeanor.

Erik Arneson, the spokesman for Chester Republican Dominic Pileggi, the Senate majority leader says, “A lot of members of the General Assembly are embarrassed by what has been going on. This is overdue. The vast majority of elected officials in the state probably – but certainly the vast majority of senators – had no idea that this wasn’t already illegal.”

Arneson says currently lawmakers can accept a cash gift even over $250 if it’s reported and it’s not in exchange for official action. The House last week imposed a rule change to ban most cash gifts; the Senate is expected to vote on both the bill to outlaw them and a rule change this week.