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Conflict of Interest

Conflict of Interest

DEFINING CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

state mapWhether it be in state constitution, statute or rule, all states address the potential of conflicts of interests for legislators. Definitions usually specify that a legislator may not have a personal or private interest or gain in a financial way by votes and in their legislative duties. This 50 state chart outlines the definitions that apply for those in the legislative branch.

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NEPOTISM

ethics signNepotism is the "bestowal of patronage by public officers in appointing others to positions by reason of blood or marital relationship." Nearly half the states restrict nepotism to varying degrees. All 50 states have laws that either prohibit the practice or have guidelines to use in conflict-of-interest situations.

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VOTING RECUSAL

voting In most states legislators can turn to specific regulations and procedures on when and how to handle the conflict, especially in the case of voting. This 50 state charts outline provisions that legislators must follow, which can range from recusing themselves from the vote to disclosure of a conflict only.

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PAY TO PLAY

umbrella and cashState pay-to-play legislation has centered on preventing or limiting businesses with government contracts from providing campaign contributions to certain candidates or officeholders. This Legisbrief highlights states with comprehensive pay-to-play laws and those with laws that only apply to the gaming industry.

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REVOLVING DOOR

shaking hands Over half of the states have enacted a “cooling-off period” before a former legislator can come back to work at the legislature as a lobbyist. Also knows as revolving door laws, statutes range from Maryland, where the ban is until the conclusion of the next regular session, to seven states that ban former legislators for two years.

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GOVERNMENT EMPLOYMENT

capitol with flagStates have a variety of laws and rules regarding legislators' actions with other government entities.The Ethics Center has comprehensive data on these topics: Dual office holding; Dual employment; Contracting with Government; Representing Others

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OVERVIEW | CONFLICT OF INTEREST

When people enter public life, they bring their backgrounds and experiences with them. Sometimes these present ethical dilemmas in the form of conflicts of interest. In the public sector, conflicts typically arise when a legislator or employee has the potential to receive a personal benefit based on his or her public position. States are aware that conflicts of interest must be addressed and most have done so either directly or indirectly. Many states define the term in their state constitutions or statutes. 

Under the banner of "confilct of interest, the Ethics Center tracks the following issues: contracting with government, definitions, dual employment, dual office holding, honorariums, nepotism, representing clients before government, revolving door provisions (from lawmaker or staffer to lobbyist) and voting recusal.

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SEARCH ETHICS

FEATURED

  • Revolving Door Prohibitions

    This 50 state table provides information on restricting former legislators from lobbying, otherwise known as revolving door laws.

  • Revolving Door Laws: Avoiding the Appearance of Conflict of Interest

    Many states have 'revolving door' laws specifying when a former legislator can return to lobby in order to eliminate any real or perceived conflicts of interest. Proponents believe a time lapse is needed to break the connections between the votes on policy issues and lobbying for these issues, but critics say revolving door laws are unfair.

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