Ethics in the News 2010
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ALASKA The Legislative Ethics Committee has found “probable cause” that a House member improperly used state resources for private business, a violation of ethics law. The committee is not recommending punishment, but discourages legislators from engaging in practices that create the appearance of advocating or campaigning for a particular candidate.
Anchorage Daily News. December 21, 2010. http://community.adn.com/node/154905#
FLORIDA Opinion: New Year’s Resolution: Clean Government.
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. December 31, 2010. http://fcir.org/2010/12/31/new-years-resolution-clean-government/
GEORGIA Ethics laws passed during the 2010 legislative session will take effect on January 1. These include a law that strengthens reporting requirements for elected officials and lobbyists and one that requires local officials to electronically report on their campaign contributions.
The Florida Times-Union. December 25, 2010. http://jacksonville.com/news/georgia/2010-12-25/story/new-laws-georgia-starting-jan-1
MONTANA Gov. Schweitzer has appointed Jennifer Hensley to replace Commissioner of Political Practices Dennis Unsworth at the end of his six-year term, which expires at the end of the year.
Associated Press. December 24, 2010. http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/M/MT_POLITICAL_PRACTICES_MTOL-?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
NEW YORK The Commission on Public Integrity imposed a record $62,125 fine on Gov. Paterson for ethics law violations. The commission found that Paterson solicited and accepted free tickets from the Yankees to the 2009 World Series and provided false testimony as to how he obtained them.
The New York Times. December 20, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/21/nyregion/21paterson.html?_r=1
Senate Democrats are urging the passage of reform bills in January which would include changes to ethics laws. Members of the Majority Conference, former Mayor Ed Koch and Sen-elect David Carlucci presented the reform package as the first act of business in the New Year. Among the ethics proposals are a Unitary Ethics Commission, which would independently oversee both the legislative and executive branches, comprehensive financial disclosure from public officials who are attorneys, and prohibitions on political contributions from those doing business with the state, including some corporations.
Politics on the Hudson. December 20, 2010. http://polhudson.lohudblogs.com/2010/12/20/senate-democrats-want-quick-passage-of-bills-to-fulfill-reform-pledge/
Nyack-Piermont Patch. December 22, 2010. http://nyack.patch.com/articles/political-notebook-carlucci-backs-package-of-albany-reform-plans
OHIO Paul Nick will temporarily replace David Freel as executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission. Freel, who is retiring at the end of the year, named Nick, the Commission’s chief investigative attorney, as the commission’s interim director. Freel first joined the Ethics Commission in 1983 and has served as its executive director since 1994. On January 6 the commission is set to consider formal ratification of Nick’s temporary appointment.
The Columbus Dispatch.com. December 22, 2010. http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2010/12/22/retiring-ethics-chief-names-temporary-leader.html?sid=101
Cleveland.com. December 31, 2010. http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2010/12/ohio_ethics_commission_in_tran.html
TEXAS The Texas Tribune, examining conflict of interest disclosure, found that more than 70 lobbyists have filed forms disclosing possible conflicts with the Texas Ethics Commission since 2005. Lobbyists in Texas are required to notify their clients and the Ethics Commission of potential conflicts, however conflicts are not required to be disclosed to elected representatives or to the public.
The New York Times. December 30, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/31/us/politics/31ttlobby.html?scp=1&sq=lobbying%20law%20keeps%20conflicts&st=cse
A House member convicted of felony and misdemeanor charges for improperly disclosing his income will remain a legislator in good standing until the end of his term on January 11. Texas law does not restrict convicted felons from serving in the House if convicted while in office, although such lawmakers often resign. Prosecutors did not seek a resignation because they would like him to file amended disclosure reports, which he may not have been required to do were he no longer in office.
Statesman.com. December 16, 2010. http://www.statesman.com/news/texas-politics/convicted-lawmaker-can-still-vote-in-house-draw-1127744.html?cxtype=rss_news
ALABAMA Gov. Bob Riley has signed seven bills passed by lawmakers as part of an ethics law overhaul during a special legislative session the Governor called on December 8. Peggy Kerns, director of the ethics center at the National Conference of State legislatures, called the ethics reform “a significant step forward” for Alabama. Gov.-elect Bentley has demonstrated his support for the reform. The bills address such topics as ethics, campaign finance, lobbyist requirements and gift limits.
HB 10, the first bill to be passed and signed, bans “pass-through pork,” state money allocated to an agency but spent for a purpose not clearly outlined in the budget.
SB 1 grants subpoena power to the Alabama Ethics Commission.
SB 2 ends automatic payroll deductions for public employee groups that finance political activities, such as the Alabama Education Association and Alabama State Employees .
SB 3 prohibits dual employment, banning legislators from employment in another state agency, including a public school, college, or university, as of 2014.
SB 14 imposes gift limits on what lobbyists and principals may give legislators.
HB 9 bans transfers of money between PACs and other groups.
HB 11 requires training on state ethics law for state and local officials and lobbyists; requires anyone attempting to influence the award of a grant or contract by the executive or judicial branches to register as a lobbyist.
The Birmingham News. December 20, 2010. http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/12/hold_for_daves_call_alabama_go.html
The Wall Street Journal. December 17, 2010. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704073804576023924194469788.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
MontgomeryAdvertiser.com. December 15, 2010. http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/article/20101215/NEWS02/12150360/Democrats-hold-up-bill-opposed-by-AEA-other-groups
The Birmingham News. December 15, 2010. http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/12/alabama_house_breaks_logjam_ba.html#comments
The Birmingham News. December 14, 2010. http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/12/alabama_senate_gives_final_leg.html
MontgomeryAdvertiser.com. December 9, 2010. http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/article/20101209/NEWS0201/12090332/Bentley+tells+lawmakers+to+do+it+right+or+be+prepared+to+do+it+again
CALIFORNIA Bills introduced by California legislators urge changes in ethics rules.
SB 18 places additional limits on gift giving by special interest groups and lobbyist employers to legislators.
SB 31 requires local governments to create a program for lobbyist registration in order for the local government to apply for discretionary grants from the state.
CaliforniaWatch.org. December 9, 2010. http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/lawmakers-propose-transparency-ethics-bills-7326
CONNECTICUT As required by a 2008 law, the Office of State Ethics conducted mandatory ethics training for newly elected members of the General Assembly.
Hartford Courant. December 1, 2010. http://articles.courant.com/2010-12-01/news/hc-legislators-ethics-training-1202-20101201_1_state-ethics-ethics-officials-ethics-training
FLORIDA Editorial: “The fox’s friends are guarding the henhouse…An ethics enforcement system needs the ability to enforce independently and should be beyond the direct influence of anyone who is subject to a decision.”
Jacksonville.com. December 12, 2010 http://www.bing.com/search?q=legislature+shoring+up+ethics&src=IE-SearchBox
GEORGIA In addition to legislation passed last spring, which increased reporting requirements and enhanced the State Ethics Commission authority, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee will seek limits on lobbyist gift giving and spending and a “cooling off period” for executive branch employees.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. December 13, 2010. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/top-lawmaker-will-push-774975.html
INDIANA In response to an ethics scandal involving the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and Duke Energy Corp, legislation set to be introduced in the next session would give Indiana lawmakers oversight in state appointments made by the governor.
Indianapolis Business Journal. December 8, 2010. http://www.ibj.com/bill-would-provide-oversight-for-key-state-appointments/PARAMS/article/23884
IOWA Megan Tooker will replace Charlie Smithson as director of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.
Des Moines Register. December 13, 2010. http://blogs.desmoinesregister.com/dmr/index.php/2010/12/13/new-ethics-director-hired-without-advertising/
MONTANA The Political Practices Commissioner’s term will expire on December 31, with a case against Governor Schweitzer still unresolved. The case, brought by the Montana Republican Party, found that Schweitzer violated ethics laws by using state resources for campaign purposes. At present, the 32-month-old case is awaiting a penalty decision by the current Political Practices Commissioner, pending formal filings by the GOP on what penalties should be assessed. Governor Schweitzer is responsible for appointing the next Political Practices Commissioner.
Billings Gazette. December 8, 2010. http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/article_257740d2-233f-508d-a853-295904bdbc2f.html
NEVADA Lobbyist registration fees will increase from $100 to $300. The price increase is not expected to significantly impact registration.
Las Vegas Sun. December 7, 2010. http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2010/dec/07/lobbyist-registration-fee-increasing-2011-legislat/
NEW JERSEY Proposed legislation by a state senator closely resembles an ethics reform package introduced by the Governor in September. The bill aims to close several loopholes in pay-to-play law and in a law which permits government contracts to donors through a “fair and open” process, in addition to banning wheeling, the funneling of contributions through various candidates or parties to avoid contribution limits. The senator’s bill fails to enforce the same restrictions for unions as it does for state vendors. The Election Law Enforcement Commission questions the constitutionality of certain aspects of the senator’s bill and recommends actions closer to those outlined by the Governor.
NJ.com. December 7, 2010. http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/12/nj_sen_loretta_weinberg_propos.html
NEW YORK State Commission on Public Integrity Chairman Cherkasky departs with a few suggestions for improving the commission.
NY Daily News. December 9, 2010. http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2010/12/public-integrity-chairman-leav.html
An New York lobbyist implicated in an extensive state pension fund investigation has agreed to pay a $500,000 fine in addition to being prohibited from interaction with the comptroller’s office for a period of five years. The lobbyist has been described as symbolic of the state’s pay-to-play culture and is part of a wider investigation which has included eight criminal pleas and more than a dozen settlements from various lobbying and law firms.
The New York Times. December 8, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/09/nyregion/09lobby.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper
PENNSYLVANIA Governor-elect Corbett’s transition team includes numerous individuals who are tied to businesses and industries regulated by government agencies. Members are unpaid and must sign a code of ethical conduct. However, critics highlight heavy representation of corporate interests, suggesting that the Gov.-elect could have chosen equally qualified members from the nonprofit sector and academia.
The Patriot News. December 6, 2010. http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2010/12/composition_of_pennsylvania_go.html
WASHINGTON In an effort to increase disclosure, a senator plans to introduce a bill that limits the number of PACs a group can create and restricts PACs from funding one another.
The Olympian. December 13, 2010. http://www.theolympian.com/2010/12/13/1472719/senators-bill-would-place-limits.html
ALABAMA Editorial: If legislators are called into special session in December, they must pass tough, meaningful ethics and campaign finance reforms. The Huntsville Times calls on state legislators to ban lobbyist spending on public officials altogether and give the state Ethics Commission subpoena power.
The Huntsville Times. November 23, 2010. http://blog.al.com/times-views/2010/11/editorial_make_ethics_reforms.html
Should lawmakers be called into special session in December, they will consider legislation aimed at granting subpoena power to the state Ethics Commission, banning certain lobbyist spending or implementing stricter disclosure requirements and banning transfers between PACs. According to the National Conference of State Legislature, nine states prohibit lobbyists from buying anything for public officials.
The Birmingham News. November 21, 2010. http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/11/alabama_trails_many_states_in.html
GEORIGIA Rule-making power of the State Ethics Commission was rendered ineffective in 2009 when a few words were struck from Ethics in Government Act. Attorneys have questioned whether the issuance of an advisory opinion, one of the commission’s duties, exceeds the body’s authority. New legislative leadership is waiting for the Attorney General to advise the commission prior to deciding whether or not to re-establish the commission’s authority.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. November 22, 2010. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/new-leaders-counted-on-750064.html
Governor-elect Nathan Deal’s transition team includes business leaders and lobbyists. The potential conflicts of interest concerns ethics watchdogs, as they question whether lobbyists will actually make decisions based on the best interest of the people of Georgia, or their clients. Political experts find Deal’s transition team more lobbyist-heavy than recent Georgia governors.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. November 21, 2010. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/deal-transition-team-full-749404.html
MASSACHUSETTS Two House members highlighted 2009-2010 legislative accomplishments, including new mandatory ethics law training, the passing of an ethics law bill strengthening ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance laws; a ban on gifts to public officials and increased authority granted to the Ethics Commission.
Stoughton Journal. November 24, 2010. http://www.wickedlocal.com/stoughton/newsnow/x1966817829/Galvin-Kafka-laud-House-accomplishments
NEW MEXICO Governor-elect Martinez previewed 2011 legislative goals regarding public corruption during her campaign, from creating a public corruption unit within the state police, to web databases that track government spending and contracts, to stricter and more frequent reporting requirements for lobbyists, officials, and candidates. She will have the opportunity to present these proposals in her State of the State address on January 18. Martinez recently named a known proponent of ethical behavior in state government as her chief of staff.
Albuquerque Journal. November 27, 2010. http://www.abqjournal.com/upfront/27231737upfront11-27-10.htm
NEW YORK Editorial: “New York needs a broader investigative agency.” The Buffalo News suggests that Gov.-elect Andrew M. Cuomo request legislation that would empower the Inspector General’s Office to handle state government investigations in addition to the executive investigatory powers it has currently.
Buffalo News. November 22, 2010. http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial-page/buffalo-news-editorials/article261476.ece
SOUTH CAROLINA According to an analysis of legislator financial disclosure by The Greenville News, many lawmakers, their businesses, and family members received millions of dollars through business relationships with governmental agencies last year. South Carolina does not ban outside employment for legislators or restrict them from contracting with or being an employee of a body which does business with the state or local government. Some see the problem as one relating to the part-time nature of the legislature, which necessitates that lawmakers engage in other business to generate sufficient income. Others advocate more stringent transparency and disclosure requirements, including disclosure of every source of income, not just income from the government. At least two senators intend to file legislation which would address issues of outside employment, contracting with government, legislators working for a lobbyist principal, and barring lawyers who represent state agencies from suing the state at the same time.
The Greenville Online. November 28, 2010. http://www.greenvilleonline.com/article/20101128/BUSINESS/311280013/Some-legislators-have-business-ties-with-state
ALABAMA Both the current and newly-elected governors are supporting special sessions to tackle ethics reform. Current Governor Riley is hinting that he may call a special session in December, while Governor-elect Bentley has proposed one for March 2011.
Alabama.com. November 11, 2010. http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/11/alabama_gov_bob_riley_backs_ea.html
Opinion: This time, Democrats took it on the chin…now, Republicans must govern. The Birmingham News calls on the new Republican state legislative majority to pass “the nation’s strongest ethics and campaign finance laws.”
Birmingham News. November 7, 2010. http://blog.al.com/birmingham-news-commentary/2010/11/our_view_this_time_around_demo.html
ARKANSAS The House Minority Leader has said that the Republican caucus will push for ethics reform legislation in 2011. Among the possible ideas for reform are a “no cup of coffee” gift ban, new rules on travel, and a revolving door provision on legislators who would be lobbyists.
KUAR/ November 9, 2010. http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kuar/news.newsmain/article/0/0/1723649/KUAR.Features/House.GOP.leader.to.tackle.ethics.reform
FLORIDA Editorial: Haridopolos, soon-to-be leader of the Florida Senate, should set ethical standards for colleagues.
TC Palm.com. November 10, 2010. http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2010/nov/10/haridopolos-quagmire/
GUAM The Legislative Ethics and Standards Committee released a complaint it received, which accuses the Lieutenant Governor-Elect of fraud and abuse of the legal process by submitting documents, testifying in court and obtaining a legal identification card that listed his new name prior to receiving court approval for a legal name change. Counsel for the committee is reviewing the complaint to determine its merit.
KUAM News. November 8, 2010. http://www.kuam.com/Global/story.asp?S=13467991
IDAHO The Speaker of the House has reportedly decided to follow the recommendation of a House ethics panel and will remove a member from the Revenue and Taxation Committee. The panel decided in September that the member, due to personal and legal problems with state tax authorities, would likely have a conflict of interest by serving on the committee.
Boise Weekly. November 9, 2010. http://www.boiseweekly.com/CityDesk/archives/2010/11/09/hart-ousted-from-rev-and-tax-anderson-the-house-has-to-clean-itself
ILLINOIS The General Assembly begins its veto session on November 15, and could overturn the Governor’s vetoes of HB 4842, which establishes a citizens’ initiative process for ethics proposals, and HB 5154, which revoked a disclosure exemption for the performance evaluations of public employees under state FOIA provisions.
Progress Illinois. November 11, 2010. http://progressillinois.com/posts/content/2010/11/11/previewing-springfield-veto-session
IOWA The Executive Director of the state Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board has been selected to be the next Chief Clerk of the Iowa House.
Des Moines Register. November 11, 2010. http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20101111/NEWS/11110347/-1/SPORTS09/Insider-Smithson-is-chief-clerk-of-Iowa-House
KENTUCKY The state’s Legislative Ethics Commission offered an informal opinion as to whether or not legislators can accept assistance from the University of Louisville in order to purchase season basketball tickets. Members are given the opportunity to buy face value tickets each year, but this year they were asked to pay an unexpected, additional fee that is helping to finance a new basketball venue. The University has offered to pay the fees for the 2010-2011 season, but the commission cautioned that the assistance must not come from the university’s foundation. In its opinion, the commission said that law allows a state university to pay for members’ costs for university-sponsored events, but that other money would not be considered university funds.
Cournier-Journal. October 25, 2010. http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20101025/NEWS01/310250093/1008/NEWS01/
NORTH CAROLINA Editorial: Republicans must make the most of this opportunity. The Star News calls upon the new Republican legislative majority to adopt stronger ethics reforms, among others.
Star News. November 4, 2010. http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20101104/ARTICLES/101109837/-1/news06?Title=Editorial-Republicans-must-make-the-most-of-this-opportunity
OHIO David Freel, who has served as the executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission for 17 years, is retiring at the end of the year. The commission will meet to consider the process and for the search and selection of a new director in mid-November.
Columbus Dispatch. November 10, 2010. http://www.dispatchpolitics.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2010/11/10/copy/head-of-states-ethics-commission-is-retiring.html?adsec=politics&sid=101
WEST VIRGINIA Editorial: Tougher ethics rules for state officials are justified. The Herald-Dispatch wants to see the Legislature consider revolving door provisions and financial disclosure provisions that include spousal information in 2011.
Herald-Dispatch. November 10, 2010. http://www.herald-dispatch.com/opinions/x62912533/Tougher-ethics-rules-for-state-officials-are-justified
ALABAMA The Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates are each proposing a special session on ethics for public officials.
Associated Press. October 22, 2010. http://www.whnt.com/news/sns-ap-al--alabamagovernor-ethics,0,4491275.story
GEORGIA The state Republican Party has filed an ethics complaint against the state Democratic Party, claiming that they group paid for political ads that benefited the current Governor, a Democrat, but paid at a lower rate reserved for individual candidates. The Democratic Party filed an ethics complaint earlier in the week alleging that the Republican gubernatorial candidate improperly accepted campaign contributions.
Atlanta Journal Constitution. October 22, 2010. http://blogs.ajc.com/georgia_elections_news/2010/10/22/republicans-file-ethics-complaint-against-democrats-barnes/?cxntfid=blogs_georgia_elections_news
GUAM The legislature’s committee on ethics and standards will likely convene once more this year to investigate a complaint against a state senator.
Guam News Watch. October 21, 2010. http://guamnewswatch.com/201010213355/Local-News/Guam-Ethics-Chair-Guthertz-Mum-On-Tenorio-Complaint/Print.html
ILLINOIS Thirty one percent of surveyed voters say that they favor term limits as a means to curb corruption. Twenty three percent responded that greater access and transparency would help. Ethics reform has repeatedly surfaced as a topic of discussion among gubernatorial candidates.
Chicago Tribune. October 17, 2010. http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/ct-met-governor-ethics-issue-20101017,0,3198763.story
The Daily Herald examines how some state public transit entities use public money to hire lobbyists and the campaign contributions lobbyists make to legislators.
Daily Herald. October 24, 2010. http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20101024/news/710259871/
OPINION: Vote to reform Illinois. October 22, 2010. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-ethics-20101022,0,2138649.story
LOUISIANA The ethics board is facing a possible $1.3 million budget cut, the majority of which would impact staff size and salaries. The board’s chairman stated that personnel cuts would adversely affect the board’s ability to perform the functions ascribed to it by law. A spokesperson for the Governor said that the board will be provided with “a budget that will allow…a strong and vigorous enforcement of the ethics code.”
The Advocate. October 21, 2010. http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/105406763.html
NEW JERSEY State legislators are not prohibited from holding a public job, but the Governor is proposing to end the practice. Twenty-seven legislators reported additional income from a position, contract or business relationship with at least one government agency in 2010. Ten hold another elected office – the state now prohibits dual office holding but grandfathered in those members who held dual positions when the legislation passed. The Governor’s proposals would also do away with dual office holding. NCSL notes that half of the states ban dual office holding.
NorthJersey.com. October 21, 2010. http://www.northjersey.com/news/politics/105538893_Local_state_senator_among_legislators_who_hold_extra_public_job.html
Editorial:A uniform approach to ethics.A state senator and an assemblyman have proposed the “Government Reality Check Act,” a package of bills that would include revolving door provisions, a new gift and travel limit for certain employees, and new transparency provisions.
Daily Record. October 24, 2010. http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20101024/OPINION01/101022028/1005/NEWS01/A+uniform+approach+on+ethics+
NEW YORK The state inspector general issued a report that implicates two Senate leaders and the Secretary of the Senate, among other public officials, in a string of questionable and possibly improper activity during the process of selecting a builder for the state’s first casino. The report claims that the officials showed favor toward Aqueduct Entertainment from the start of the process, leaked competing bid information to the company, mingled with company officials, and even received campaign contributions from the company. The inspector general found that the process was “without formal rules or objective criteria, and was awash in ‘unrestrained political considerations,’ lobbyists and targeted campaign contributions.” After complaints about favoritism and Aqueduct’s financial and legal problems surfaced, the Governor reversed the selection in March. The IG has referred the case to federal and prosecutors as well as the legislative ethics committee, though the report concludes that proving a criminal case could be difficult as no formal rules existed for the bidding and selection process.
New York Times. October 21, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/22/nyregion/22casino.html?_r=3&pagewanted=1&hp
The legislative ethics commission found that former Senator Monserrate violated gift ban laws by accepting donations to his legal defense fund from lobbyists and clients who had business before the Senate. The case has been referred to the county district attorney’s office for enforcement. Separately, the Senator was indicted on federal fraud charges for misusing city money while he was a councilman in order to help fund a Senate campaign.
New York Daily News. October 21, 2010. http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/10/21/2010-10-21_hiram_monserrate_disgraced_exstate_sen_may_be_in_even_more_hot_water_over_ethics.html
WNYT questions the effectiveness of the legislative ethics commission, due to its composition and exemption from the Freedom of Information Act and open meetings laws. The commission’s executive director defended the body, saying the commission is “capable of reviewing the actions of their peers and indicting them, if necessary.” She added that newly passed ethics reforms help clarify ethics laws.
WNYT.com. October 22, 2010. http://wnyt.com/article/stories/S1804599.shtml?cat=300
UTAH Opinion: Vote yes on “D.”
Salt Lake Tribune. October 13, 2010. http://www.sltrib.com/csp/cms/sites/sltrib/pages/printerfriendly.csp?id=50434908
ALABAMA Four state legislators, one staffer, state lobbyists, and the owner of the state’s largest casino were indicted on federal charges of bribery, conspiracy and fraud. They are accused of buying and selling votes on a 2010 gaming bill. One defendant, a lobbyist, pled guilty to conspiracy, whereby she offered a legislators money for a vote. Gaming, and electronic bingo in particular, has been top issue for the past few years. In 2008 the Governor began raiding casinos and bingo halls, resulting in the closure of all privately operated electronic bingo casinos. The Legislature considered bills in 2009 and 2010 aimed at allowing for the operation and taxation of the games, though neither passed. The federal investigation into corruption charges began in 2009, and the Legislature was made aware of it last spring, but no charges had been previously filed. Some proponents of legalized gambling have said they believe the charges are politically motivated, and that the timing of the indictments concerns them.
New York Times. October 4, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/05/us/05alabama.html
Montgomery Advertiser. October 4, 2010. http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/article/20101004/NLETTER02/101004010/Corruption-probe-nets-McGregor-senators-lobbyists
Birmingham News. October 8, 2010. http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/10/alabama_bingo_bill_was_pressur.html Birmingham News. October 8, 2010. http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/10/bingo_corruption_probe_indicte.html
OPINION: Archibald – An offer Alabama better refuse.
Birmingham News. October 8, 2010. http://blog.al.com/archiblog/2010/10/archibald_an_offer_alabama_bet.html
COLORADO The state ethics commission issued a ruling for the current Governor’s office staff. The commission determined that despite a constitutional amendment limiting the acceptance of anything of value over $50, staffers are allowed to have prospective employers pay for travel expenses during job searches, although it cautioned that permission should still be sought on a case by case basis.
Denver Post. September 2, 2010. http://www.denverpost.com/ci_15968558
The commission also issued a ruling on a planned legislative fundraiser aimed at raising money for the purchase of television cameras for the Joint Budget Committee. The commission opined that the proposed ticket price of $100 exceeded the $50 limit on what a legislator can receive from a single donor. Additionally, the commission found fault with the fact that the event was partially funded through contributions from lobbyists, who are prohibited from giving anything of value to members and state employees.
State Bill Colorado. September 20, 2010. http://www.statebillnews.com/?s=legislative+tv+nixes&x=0&y=0&=Go
CONNECTICUT The Connecticut Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board, which oversees the Office of State Ethics, celebrated its five year anniversary.
Boston Globe. September 26, 2010. http://www.boston.com/news/local/connecticut/articles/2010/09/26/conn_ethics_panel_to_celebrate_5th_anniversary/
IDAHO The House Ethics Committee voted to recommend to leadership that a member embroiled in a dispute with the state tax commission be removed from the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. The member owes thousands of dollars in back taxes and used legislative privilege as a reason to file tax returns or appeal paperwork.
Boise Weekly. September 22, 2010. http://www.boiseweekly.com/CityDesk/archives/2010/09/22/ethics-committee-votes-unanimously-for-hart-to-be-taken-off-taxation-committee
INDIANA Editorial: State must clip conflicts of interest.
Indianapolis Star. October 13, 2010. http://www.pal-item.com/article/20101013/NEWS03/10130303
MICHIGAN OPINION: State lawmakers will likely wrap up without law to require disclosure of possible political conflicts.
The Detroit News. September 30, 2010. http://detnews.com/article/20100927/OPINION01/9270311/State-lawmakers-will-likely-wrap-up-without-law-to-require-disclosure-of-possible-political-conflicts
MISSOURI The ethics laws passed during the 2010 session went into effect in early September, and some worry they may have negative unintended consequences. An exemption to the campaign finance restrictions allows the majority and minority floor leaders in both chambers to designate on PAC as exempt from new restrictions. Critics fear that by linking responsibilities on the floor with fundraising and campaigning, the law could create the perception that contributions drive the policy agenda. An additional concern is that new investigatory powers granted to the ethics commission will enable investigators to begin work with a complaint, as long as there is unanimous support from the commission. Most legislators and ethics commission officials seem to agree that the legislation is a step forward.
Kansas City Star. September 4, 2010. www.kansascity.com/2010/09/04/v-print/2200330/missouri-ethics-reform-raise.html
NEW MEXICO Under a recently passed House resolution, a task force is collaborating with New Mexico State University to create a public sector ethics course for legislators. A task force member stated that the idea is to teach elected officials that public sector ethics can often differ from the private sector. Representative Nate Cote, who sponsored the resolution, said that “ethics training should clarify and reinforce the understanding of a person’s ethical compass.”
Santa Fe New Mexican. September 6, 2010. http://www.santafenewmexican.com/localnews/Legislators-to-take-public-ethics-course
Discussions regarding the establishment of a state ethics commission continue, this time between gubernatorial candidates. The Democratic candidate is in favor of its creation and would do so by executive order, while the Republican candidate feels that the body would not be effective, and would establish a division within the state police to investigate corruption.
New Mexico Independent. September 28, 2010. http://newmexicoindependent.com/63934/governor-candidates-disagree-on-state-ethics-commission
NEW HAMPSHIRE The state Republican Party called for a Legislative Ethics Committee investigation against a Democratic majority floor leader, claiming he violated legislative rules against making threats or other acts meant to exert special influence in two instances. The Republican Party has filed no complaint, and such complaints must be kept confidential until the Committee conducts a preliminary investigation.
Union Leader. September 24, 2010. http://www.unionleader.com/article.aspx?headline=GOP+seeks+action+against+Rep.+Eaton&articleId=3f31d142-8a3e-4847-b31d-c938851118c2
Keene Sentinel. September 30, 2010. www.keenesentinel.com/articles/2010/09/30/news/local/free/id_414144.prt
NEW JERSEY The legislature is considering ethics reforms once again. Governor Christie has proposed a series of measures which would limit how many public salaries one person could earn, close a grandfather clause that allows certain legislators to hold dual public offices, and require legislators and executive branch staff to file more detailed financial disclosures. An Assembly member has also proposed reforms, including the addition of “political crimes” to the state’s definition of racketeering, increasing the penalty if a bill creates a “no show” job, requiring legislators to certify that proposed bills will not benefit them monetarily, and suspending public officials who are under indictment.
NewJerseynewsroom.com. September 24, 2010. http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/state/gusciora-proposes-full-time-legislature-and-limit-of-no-more-than-10-years-in-office/print
PressofAtlanticCity.com. September 14, 2010. http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/press/new_jersey/article_239b4066-bee1-11df-a4df-001cc4c03286.html
OPINION: Hopeful signs of good government in New Jersey.
NJ.com. September 24, 2010. http://blog.nj.com/njv_guest_blog/2010/09/hopeful_signs_of_good_governme.html
The 2nd indictment of Senator Wayne Bryant, accused of accepting bribes in exchange for supporting certain clients’ development projects, is calling into question the state’s financial disclosure requirements. The bribes were disguised as retainer fees and under state law, legislators are not required to disclose clients, the amount received from clients, or the nature of their work. Some argue that the case serves as a good argument for stronger disclosure rules. Ingrid Reed, the chair of a gubernatorial ethics task force, said that “while stronger disclosure rules could help, it may be just as important to create a culture in which strong ethical behavior is expected and discussed in the open.”
Philadelphia Inquirer. September 29. 2010. http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20100929_Bryant_indictment_highlights_loophole_in_N_J__ethics_law.html
OKLAHOMA The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, a state senator, is promising to build support for ethics law changes. Among his proposals are a ban on lobbyist gift giving, a requirement that lobbyists maintain detailed records of meetings with legislators, and the creation of a special prosecutor’s office to investigate ethics violations.
Newsok.com. September 30, 2010. http://newsok.com/candidate-seeks-to-rein-in-lobbyists-special-interests/article/3499807
SOUTH CAROLINA Some critics of South Carolina’s process for investigating and disciplining legislative ethics allegations and violations are calling for changes. Legislators and legislative candidates fall under the jurisdiction of the Senate and House Ethics Committees, while executive branch and local officials are overseen by the state ethics commission. Suggested changes include publicizing ethics complaints once the committees have found probable cause to investigate, combining the two committees into one, increasing the penalties and fines for violations, and enabling the committees to turn over unpaid fines to the Department of Revenue to offset tax refunds (which the ethics commission can currently do). The chair of the House Ethics Committee said that he only has one staff person to review filings for all 124 House members and candidates, which adds to the difficulties faced by the Committee.
Wltx.com. September 26, 2010. http://www.wltx.com/news/story.aspx?storyid=99876
TENNESSEE A member of the state ethics commission resigned, claiming that his frustration at the commission’s inability to “impact the serious laws in the (government)” is his main reason for leaving. In his resignation letter, he stated that ethics and morality are “difficult to control in the public arena” and that “the problem with politics is outside the bounds of the commission’s control.”
Knox News. September 9, 2010. http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2010/sep/09/charles-farmer-resigns-tn-ethics-commission/
GEORGIA The Ethics Commission may refer an ethics investigation to the state prosecutor, as its efforts to subpoena information have netted little results. The state insurance commissioner, who ran for governor, is accused of campaign finance violations and insurance companies that contributed to his campaign have failed to provide requested documentation to the commission. The companies have sued the commission.
Property and Casualty. August 18, 2010. http://www.property-casualty.com/News/2010/8/Pages/Ga-Ethics-Commission-Seeks-Help-In-Oxendine-Donations-Case.aspx
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution examines lobbyist-funded travel for state legislators. Lobbyists in Georgia are required to report gifts “of value,” though the paper found some failed to do so.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution. August 16, 2010. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/business-groups-spend-thousands-592641.html
ILLINOIS A jury convicted former Governor Rod Blagojevich of just one of 24 federal indictments – that he lied to the FBI about his involvement in campaign fundraising. The jury was deadlocked on the other counts. Prosecutors plan to retry Blagojevich on the remaining charges.
Chicago Tribune. August 17, 2010. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-ex-governor-rod-blagojevich-verdict,0,215489.story
The public dialogue on Illinois reputation for having a culture of corruption continues. Many wonder if the will to reform has faded, both among political leaders and the public.
New York Times. August 18, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/19/us/19blago.html?_r=2&hpw
LOUISIANA A Senate member has been charged by the state board of ethics for violating disclosure requirements. The legislator, who is an attorney, allegedly represented a client for a contingency fee in a lawsuit against Louisiana State University without notifying the board of the action. A panel of ethics judges will hear the case.
Times-Picayune. August 13, 2010. http://blog.nola.com/politics/print.html?entry=/2010/08/lsu_officials_felt_pressure_to.html
MASSACHUSETTS The legislators that chair the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight are calling for the online availability of public officials’ financial disclosure forms. The state ethics commission reportedly takes a lengthy amount of time to process requests to view the forms, and claims this is due to increased demands, limited staff and legal restrictions that prevent them from posting forms online. Massachusetts law also requires that the commission notify public officials any time such a request is filed for their information. The Committee may take the matter up during the upcoming legislative session.
Boston Globe. August 18, 2010. /www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/08/18/lawmakers_call_for_online_accessibility_of_financial_forms
NEVADA The state Supreme Court ruled that a piece of the state's ethics law was unconstitutional. The ruling sided with a former state city councilman, who sued the state after he was censured by the Ethics Commission for voting on an issue where he had an alleged conflict of interest. The Court ruled unconstitutional the part of the ethics law that limits voting saying that in creating the law, the legislature "failed to establish appropriate circumstances under which recusal can be required," and that voting for a public official is protected under the First Amendment. The legislature will have to change the portion of the law deemed unconstitutional.
Nevada Appeal. July 30, 2010. http://www.nevadaappeal.com/article/20100730/NEWS/100729481
NEW YORK All of the candidates in the race for Attorney General are pledging to seek legislation that would broaden the jurisdiction of the office in order to initiate ethics investigations against government officials. Additionally, many candidates are claiming they will petition the Governor to issue an executive order that would enable those powers in the meantime. A spokesperson for Governor Patterson said that he would take the matter under consideration.
New York Times. August 16, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/17/nyregion/17ethics.html
PENNSYLVANIA According to Ethics Commission records, lawmakers reported receiving $67,000 in gifts in 2009. The amount shows that legislators received fewer and less-valuable gifts than they have in years past.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. August 16, 2010. http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/20100816_Pa__lawmakers_reported__67_000_in_freebies_in__09.html
The Pennyslvania Independent reviews legislator travel expenses and reimbursements.
Weekly Press. August 18, 2010. http://www.weeklypress.com/pennsylvania-legislators-flying-a-toofriendly-sky-p2106-1.htm
TEXAS An Associated Press investigation has found that a House member has been submitting expense and reimbursement reports to both his campaign fund and to the legislature. According to the lawmaker, he had consulted with the Ethics Commission on the practice and was told it was allowable, but later said he had “incorrectly interpreted” their advice. He has pledged to pay back the state for the money he received. Some are calling for a criminal investigation into the issue.
Houston Chronicle. August 16, 2010. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/tx/7156244.html
UTAH Utahns for Ethical Government have collected more than 110,000 signatures for their ethics reform ballot initiative, and say that under their interpretation of the law, this qualifies the petition for the 2012 ballot. The Lieutenant Governor disagrees, saying that the group failed to gather the signatures by an April 15 deadline and that they must start over with a new petition for 2012. Both parties are calling for a judge’s interpretation.
Deseret News. August 13, 2010. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700056268/Utah-2012-ethics-petition-question-likely-headed-to-court.html
Opinion: Ethics initiative. “UEG must acknowledge that as time passes, opinions change.”
Salt Lake Tribune. August 19, 2010. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/50126373-82/ethics-initiative-lawmakers-state.html.csp
ILLINOIS Legislative leaders and the Governor are creating a commission to study ethics reform, per the state’s 2009 law that created campaign contribution limits. In addition to examining the effect of those limits, the group will explore public financing for elections. Two legislators and one legislative staff person have been appointed to the commission. The first report will be due in 18 months.
WGIL. August 4, 2010. http://www.wgil.com/localnews.php?xnewsaction=fullnews&newsarch=072010&newsid=268
The Pantagraph. July 22, 2010. http://www.pantagraph.com/news/state-and-regional/illinois/article_cdbf0d81-1404-5ff0-9eb3-3004c4a9446f.html
KENTUCKY Opinion: Legislative ethics proposals too good to keep ignoring. “The Legislative Ethics Commission has been proposing some needed changed to the ethics law….all are sensible and deserve approval.”
Lexington Herald-Leader. August 4, 2010. http://www.kentucky.com/2010/08/04/1375772/legislative-ethics-proposals-too.html
LOUISIANA The ethics adjudicatory panel heard the testimony of a legislative staff person accused of ethics violations. The state’s ethics attorney argued that the staffer “received things of economic value to which he was not ‘duly entitled’ and gave himself retroactive and overtime pay as well as a $600 a month car allowance,” all without receiving legislative approval. The staffer’s attorney argued that he was following “common and customary practices in use across state government and in the House and Senate for decades.” The staffer resigned from the legislature some time ago.
The Advocate. July 28, 2010. http://www.2theadvocate.com/blogs/politicsblog/99436989.html
MARYLAND The Speaker of the House is calling for a review of rules on allowable lodging expenses for legislators, in the wake of allegations that a retired member paid tens of thousands of dollars to pay for his girlfriend’s rent during legislative sessions.
The Capital. August 1, 2010. http://hamptonroads.com/2010/08/changes-ethics-rules-add-transparency-state-investigations
NORTH CAROLINA The Governor signed 2010 ethics reform legislation into law. The law expands the personnel information about state employees that must be publically available, requires that appointees to boards and commissions release their fundraising activities for the officials that appointed them and creates harsher penalties for certain illegal campaign contributions. The bill passed unanimously in the House and garnered only one “no” vote in the Senate.
The Sun News. July 11, 2010. http://www.thesunnews.com/2010/07/11/1580561/ethics-bill-wraps-year.html?storylink=mirelated
News 14 Carolina. August 2, 2010. http://charlotte.news14.com/content/politics/628747/perdue-signs-ethics-reform-bill-into-law
Editorial: Reform– Ethics laws better, but still need work.
Fay Observer. August 4, 2010. http://www.fayobserver.com/articles/2010/08/04/1018793?sac=Opin
OKLAHOMA According to a report from the state ethics commission, lobbyists’ spending increased more than $12,000 for the first six months of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009.
Edmond Sun. August 4, 2010. http://www.edmondsun.com/local/x1243785946/Lawmakers-receive-more-gifts-meals-this-year
PENNSYLVANIA A legislator is proposing the creation of a public integrity commission, which would have the authority to investigate corruption in state and local government. The commission would be a permanent investigatory agency, staffed by law-enforcement personnel, and would take over some of the responsibilities of the state ethics commission, including the ability to issue subpoenas, share information with other law enforcement agencies and use grants of immunity to compel testimony. It would not be vested with the authority to prosecute violations. The proposal received bipartisan support from at least 20 other legislators and several state good government groups.
Philadelphia Inquirer. July 27, 2010. http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/99296349.html
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. August 2, 2010. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/regional/s_693025.html
Editorial: Bonusgate just tip of Harrisburg politics.
Delaware County Daily Times. July 30, 2010. http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2010/07/30/opinion/doc4c5235aa77684014933467.txt
Editorial: More, better scrutiny.
Philadelphia Inquirer. July 26, 2010. http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/20100726_Editorial__More__better_scrutiny.html
SOUTH CAROLINA The Legislative Audit Council released a report noting that the legislature failed to act on 2007 recommendations to implement a revolving door restriction on state employees who take certain private sector jobs. The chair of the House ethics committee said that the issue has not had precedence over other priorities, such as the budget in recent sessions, but both he and the chair of the Senate ethics committee agreed that it may be time to examine the recommendation.
The Sun News. August 4, 2010. http://www.thesunnews.com/2010/08/04/1618553/council-calls-for-ethics-crackdown.html
UTAH A lawmaker is receiving criticism for charging speaking fees for engagements outside the state where he is asked to speak about his role as co-founder of a states’ rights caucus. The member stressed that he had consulted with legislative attorneys to work within the state’s laws. According to Natalie Wood, policy specialist with NCSL, “on this topic (there are) concerns about whether or not a public official in his or her official capacity is getting paid to speak or do work they should be doing anyway.” NCSL’s research shows that over half of the states prohibit legislators from receiving honorariums from work that stems from their duties as public officials. Utah does not have such a prohibition.
Salt Lake Tribune. August 2, 2010. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/50026156-76/wimmer-speaker-speaking-state.html.csp
Opinion: Free speech. No honoraria for lawmakers.
Salt Lake Tribune. August 3, 2010. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/50037859-82/wimmer-state-utah-engagements.html.csp
VIRGINIA Two ethics advisory panels have added procedures for open hearings on legislative conflict of interest matters and for the continuation of active investigations even if the legislator leaves office. Rules were also created that specify that deliberations held after an open hearing be in closed session. The legislature made ethics reform a priority in 2010, and passed legislation that opens up formal investigatory hearings. The Governor has pledged to establish an independent ethics commission.
Pilotonline.com. August 2, 2010. http://hamptonroads.com/2010/08/changes-ethics-rules-add-transparency-state-investigations
WISCONSIN Editorial: Don’t hide government e-mails. “The state Supreme Court ruled that the state’s open records law does not require the disclosure of ‘purely personal e-mails’ sent by government workers using government accounts. The Legislature should fix the law to close this secrecy loophole.”
Wisconsin State Journal. August 2, 2010. http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/opinion/editorial/article_d086bde3-1f2b-5e46-8775-70c08e89411c.html
CALIFORNIA Los Angeles’ Ethics Commission is contemplating changes to regulations on gift prohibitions. The Mayor has been attending games using free tickets and has failed to report them. The President of the Center for Governmental Studies testified to the Commission and gave several recommendations regarding the issue of gifts and reporting.
CGS E-Bulletin. July 14, 2010. http://www.cgs.org/images/eBulletins/071410.html
COLORADO The leading Republican candidate in Colorado’s gubernatorial race was accused of plagiarizing work during a paid fellowship with a local foundation. Portions of several published essays were found to be identical or nearly identical to the writings of a state supreme court justice and no citations or attributes were listed. The candidate has said he will repay the foundation and placed blame with his then-research assistant. The assistant claims that he is falsely accused and he was asked by campaign staff to sign a confession taking blame for the issue, which he refused to do. Since the allegations surfaced, three staff members have quit the candidate’s campaign.
Denver Post. July 13, 2010. http://www.denverpost.com/election2010/ci_15502025?source=pkg
Associated Press. July 17, 2010. http://www.greeleytribune.com/article/20100717/NEWS/100719728/1008&parentprofile=1001
INDIANA OPINION: Off to lobbyland for Hoosier lawmakers.
South Bend Tribune. July 19, 2010. http://www.southbendtribune.com/article/20100719/Opinion/7190320/-1/googleNews
MISSOURI The Governor signed ethics legislation into law. Among its provisions, it provides the state ethics commission to independently initiate ethics investigations.
KAKE10. July 14, 2010. http://www.kake.com/news/headlines/98446739.html?ref=739
NORTH CAROLINA The legislature passed ethics reform measures in the last night of session. The bill strengthens penalties for certain illegal campaign contributions, requires board and commission members to report campaign fundraising activities for the elected officials who appointed them, and expands publically available information about state employees. A pay-to-play provision was defeated, but the legislature will set up a commission to study such a bill.
WRAL.com. July 10, 2010. http://www.wral.com/news/local/politics/story/7936908/
OPINION: Political scandals happened as power became more concentrated. “Three separate batches of ethics reform laws passed by the legislature over the last five years are an inevitable response to money and the need to draw brighter lines in the fray around it….(this year’s) legislation will make for better government.”
Daily Reflector. July 18, 2010. http://www.reflector.com/opinion/scott-mooneyham-political-scandals-happened-power-bacame-more-concentrated-41955
OHIO The Legislative Inspector General has submitted four state lobbyists to the attorney general for investigation into whether or not they violated state lobbyist reporting laws.
The Columbus Dispatch. July 9, 2010. http://www.dispatchpolitics.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2010/07/09/copy/4-lobbyists-probed-over-possible-legal-violations.html?adsec=politics&sid=101
PENNSYLVANIA Former House Whip Mike Veon, convicted and sentenced to 6 to 14 years in state prison for his role in the “Bonusgate” scandal, was denied an appeal for bail. Veon’s attorneys argued he needed to be released in order to prepare for an upcoming trial where he is accused of misappropriating state funds to benefit his non-profit organization.
Pennlive.com. July 12, 2010. http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2010/07/state_superior_court_denies_ve.html
TENNESSEE A recent survey examined the use of state funds in sending direct mail to constituents and the rolling over of annual individual legislator allowances into the accounts of fellow lawmakers. The director of Tennessee Common Cause implied that legislators are blurring the line between campaign expenses and office expenses by sending end of session mailings and by transferring leftover mailing allowances to colleagues who face tough re-election battles. State law bans legislators from including campaign language in legislative mailings and legislative attorneys and staff review the mailers to ensure compliance. Additionally, state law prohibits a ban on mass mailers 30 days prior to primary and general elections.
Tennessean. July 18, 2010. http://www.tennessean.com/article/D4/20100718/NEWS01/7180327/Public+pays+for+political+mailings
TEXAS The Texas Tribune ponders accessibility to financial disclosure forms. Bills have been filed in recent years that would require that disclosures be made available online, though they have failed to pass. The Tribune created an application that allows the public to search for officials and view, print, download and embed their disclosure forms. The state ethics commission is not mandated to require electronic filing and must retain the names of those requesting records for one year.
Texas Tribune. July 13, 2010. http://www.texastribune.org/texas-local-news/public-information-act/search-texas-officials-financial-disclosures/
As more lobbyists apply for gun permits in order to circumvent capitol security screenings, news coverage of the issue continues. The recently passed security law contains a loophole that allows those certified to carry a gun to bypass metal detectors, which has led to an increase in applications by frequent capitol visitors, such as lobbyists, journalists and lawyers.
Fox News. July 19, 2010. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/07/19/gun-permit-allows-visitors-quick-access-texas-capitol/?test=latestnews
WISCONSIN The Legislative Audit Bureau has been tasked with investigating the state Government Accountability Board’s management and implementation the 2006 “Contract Sunshine Act,” which created an online database where all state agencies and schools could post information about state contracts. Since the law’s passage, few agencies have submitted their information. The GAB has been blamed for receiving information but failing to post it, though a Wisconsin newspaper article claimed the GAB has had “little money and no authority to enforce the law.”
Milwaukeenewsbuzz.com. July 19, 2010. http://www.milwaukeenewsbuzz.com/?p=167670
NATIONAL The Office of Congressional Ethics is investigating eight members who allegedly solicited and accepted large corporate and lobbying donations from the financial sector during the debate and prior to the initial voting on national financial reform Some have accused the OCE of “over-reaching” and observers believe it is unlikely the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct will admonish any members. The investigation will likely continue into the end of August.
New York Times. July 14, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/15/us/politics/15lobby.html
ARKANSAS A Republican gubernatorial challenger is proposing ethics reforms, including a revolving door provision for legislators-turned-lobbyists and limits on public pensions for office holders.
Arkansas News. June 24, 2010. http://arkansasnews.com/2010/06/24/keet-proposes-ethical-reforms
IDAHO The House Ethics Committee convened its first meeting to investigate ethics charges against a member. The committee will examine whether or not the member violated the legislative privilege provision found in the state constitution and House Rule 38, which governs conflicts of interest. The committee has thus far asked for a formal response from the member in question and for information and legal analyses from the attorney general.
The Spokesman-Review. July 6, 2010. http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2010/jul/06/ethics-panel-go-book-hart/
INDIANA OPINION: Some of today’s new laws are good ones. The Indianapolis Star comments on the ethics reforms that become law on July 1.
Indianapolis Star. June 30, 2010. http://www.indystar.com/article/20100630/NEWS08/6300331/115-laws-take-effect-Thursday-some-are-even-good-ones
LOUISIANA Members of the state ethics commission are pleased with some changes resulting from SB 310 and SB 418, but disappointed by others.
2theadvocate.com. June 28, 2010. http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/97281604.html
Governor Jindal vetoed HB758, which would have required the state ethics commission to reveal the names of people who file complaints. Currently the information is kept confidential.
NOLA.com. June 23, 2010. http://blog.nola.com/politics/print.html?entry=/2010/06/jindal_vetoes_two_bills_from_t.html
NORTH CAROLINA Both the House and Senate are advancing ethics bills, and legislative leaders appear poised to call for a vote in the next week or two.
Charlotte News Observer. July 2, 2010. http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/07/02/561623/house-senate-versions-of-ethics.html
UTAH Five commissioners were appointed to the newly created independent legislative ethics commission. Voters will decide in November whether or not the commission, which was created by the legislature this past session, will be part of the state constitution. The commission’s first organizational meeting, where certain procedures will be established, will be open to the public.
Deseret News. July 2, 2010. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700044864/Former-judges-lawmakers-appointed-to-legislative-ethics-commission.html
Utahans for Ethical Government is back in the news, asking the lieutenant governor to direct county clerks to accept the e-signatures it gathered for an ethics reform initiative. The group claims that a recent Utah Supreme Court decision affirms the use of e-signatures. The lieutenant governor stated that the decision only applies to candidates attempting to get their names on a ballot, not initiatives or referenda. The group plans to file a lawsuit, though no filing date has been mentioned.
Daily Herald. June 24, 2010. http://heraldextra.com/news/state-and-regional/utah/article_64a6e44e-5667-5064-a2bf-7354e741046f.html
ABC 4.com, July 1, 2010. http://www.abc4.com/content/news/state/story/Initiative-sponsors-to-sue-over-online-signatures/3H2SzO2hLEeWNcFumBLbfQ.cspx
NATIONAL The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling limiting the scope of “honest services law,” which is often used by federal prosecutors in corruption charges. The majority decision ruled that the law must only be used in bribery and kickback cases and called the broad interpretation commonly used in corruption cases “unconstitutionally vague.” The ruling calls into question the convictions of former Enron executive Jeff Skilling and Conrad Black, a newspaper executive. In an unsigned opinion, the Court returned the case of a former Alaska legislator to a lower court. Following the decision, the defense for impeached ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich filed a motion to delay his corruption trial, though it was denied. In addition to the Blagojevich trial and other Illinois corruption cases, media outlets speculated that the decision could affect the cases of public officials in New Jersey and New York.
New York Times. June 24, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/25/us/25scotus.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper
Chicago Tribune. June 24, 2010. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-honest-services-chicago-20100624,0,7353941.story
NJ.com. June 24, 2010. http://blog.nj.com/ledgerupdates_impact/print.html?entry=/2010/06/us_supreme_court_narrows_law_u.html
Anchorage Daily News. June 25, 2010. http://www.adn.com/2010/06/24/1339826/court-ruling-on-anti-corruption.html
Times Union. June 25, 2010. http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=944501
ALASKA Prompted by committee members and the public, the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics will reconsider its earlier decision allowing legislators to campaign while traveling on state funds in certain situations.
KTUU. June 16, 2010. http://www.ktuu.com/Global/story.asp?S=12657318
Anchorage Daily News. June 16, 2010. http://www.adn.com/2010/06/16/v-printer/1327222/panel-rescinds-rule-allowing-campaigning.html
Ballot Measure 1, which would ban the use of public money for campaigning or lobbying and implement campaign contribution restrictions on certain affiliates of state contractors, lost one of its supporters. The group, Clean Team Alaska, suspended operations after one of its Washington, DC-based financial backers objected to disclosing the identities of its major contributors. The group claimed that not only was it being subject to stricter financial reporting, but that state officials tried to “inappropriately tinker” with the title of the measure.
Juneaublogger.com. June 16, 2010. http://www.juneaublogger.com/updates/?p=4261
GEORGIA The ethics commission has been accused of contempt of court for proceeding with a hearing that examines questionable contributions to the gubernatorial campaign of the state’s Insurance Commissioner. State insurance companies, tied to political action committees, sued the commission last month because of subpoenas it issued in an attempt to gather financial information from the companies. The companies argue that the subpoenas are being used as a political tool, issued in advance of the primary election. A commission official stated that the subpoenas were delayed due to a lack of cooperation by the PACs. Georgia law prohibits officials from taking money directly from the entities they regulate and from channeling contributions through PACs in order to circumvent contribution limits.
Atlanta Journal Constitution. June 18, 2010. http://blogs.ajc.com/georgia_elections_news/2010/06/18/ethics-commission-sued-for-contempt-as-oxendine-saga-rolls-on/?cxntfid=blogs_georgia_elections_news
HAWAII The state ethics commission voted unanimously to fire its executive director after a report was presented that documented multiple complaints from staff and concluded that the director was “not appropriately engaged” as an administrator. Susan Yoza, associate director, will act as director until the commission hires a replacement. Hawaiian good government groups praised the former director and questioned the process used to fire him. The director said he had been on paid leave since February to deal with migraines and is contemplated legal action to challenge the decision.
Star Advertiser. June 17, 2010. http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/hawaiinews/20100617_Ethics_panel_fires_director.html
IDAHO The House is convening an ethics committee in order to investigate misconduct charges filed against a member. The representative has invoked legislative privilege in matters with the state tax commission and IRS. The committee will likely examine whether the representative violated conflict of interest and legislative privilege provisions. Under House rules, the Speaker will appoint a committee of four majority and three minority members, and they will conduct the investigation.
Spokesman-Review. June 17, 2010. http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2010/jun/17/idaho-house-convene-ethics-panel-hart/
LOUISIANA The legislature passed two ethics enforcement bills. SB 310 and SB 418 would set a one year statute of limitations on filings by the Board of Ethics from the time it receives a complaint; increase the terms of judges on the Ethics Adjudicatory Board to three years; and eliminate a requirement that the Board sign off on decisions made by the judges. The bills await the Governor’s signature.
2TheAdvocate. June 19, 2010. http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/96709639.html
OREGON The state Republican Party filed ethics charges against a Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Senate leadership, claiming that a Democratic fundraiser billed as a "private luncheon to discuss potential session issues" offers lobbyists a "quid pro quo."
Oregonlive.com. June 21, 2010. http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2010/06/oregon_gop_files_ethics_compla.html
PENNSYLVANIA The Senate has changed its rules to explicitly prohibit staff from political activity during state time. Provisions were also added to set parameters for the use of social media. The Senate Ethics Committee will handle any alleged violations of the proposed rule if the accused party is a senator; an independent party will conduct staff investigations. One senator has proposed changes to the Committee’s operations that would increase public access to proceedings, but they will be considered during the 2011-2012 session.
Citizensvoice.com. June 20, 2010. http://citizensvoice.com/news/senate-bans-political-activity-on-work-time-1.855499
Federal investigators searched the home and district office of the state Senate’s Minority Leader, saying warrants were executed based on “an ongoing joint investigation into alleged illegal activities.”
Philadelphia Inquirer. June 18, 2010. http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20100618_HED_TOO_LONG__Feds_raid_home__office_of_Pa__Senate_Minority_leader.html
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review examines the recent political scandals plaguing the state and how they compare to corruption problems faced by the state in the 1970’s.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. June 22, 2010. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/state/s_687098.html
RHODE ISLAND The legislature adjourned without passing a bill that would have allowed voters to restore the ethics commission with the authority to investigate and prosecute legislators based on their votes. Common Cause Rhode Island is asking the legislature to reconvene to pass ethics reform legislation.
ABC6.com. June 18, 2010. http://ww.abc6.com/global/story.asp?s=12672777&clienttype=printable
A senator has been indicted on seven counts of federal bank fraud charges.
Providence Journal. June 19, 2010. http://www.projo.com/generalassembly/maselli_indictment_06-19-10_1SITUNV_v26.1761b1f.html
SOUTH CAROLINA Editorial: Good point, bad veto – More transparency from the Ethics Commission makes bill worthwhile.
Goupstate.com. June 16, 2010. http://www.goupstate.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100618/ARTICLES/6181000/1128/opinion&Title=Good-point-bad-veto&template=printart
WISCONSIN Lobbyists convicted of crimes face no penalties or restrictions in Wisconsin, despite there being some lobbyists with criminal records. A 2010 Senate bill would have placed a five year ban on felons from lobbying, but it failed to pass. According to NCSL, Alaska, Connecticut and Florida have laws concerning convicted criminals and lobbying. The Journal Sentinel takes an in-depth look at the issue.
Journal Sentinel. June 19, 2010. http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/96735549.html
NATIONAL Convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff was released from a federal prison camp and has qualified for home detention for the remainder of his term. Abramoff will be working at a Baltimore pizza restaurant doing marketing.
Baltimore Sun. June 22, 2010. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-abramoff-pizza-20100622,0,668124.story
COLORADO Colorado Ethics Watch published “Ethics & Transparency: 2010 Legislative in Review,” and hopes to continue the review annually. The report focuses on nine bills in three categories (transparency, accountability and campaign integrity), and the goal of the report is to “raise awareness of what the legislature was working on.” The director of CEW stated that it was a positive report, and that next session the legislature should extend the constitutional gift prohibition to unpaid members of boards or commissions.
Colorado Statesman. June 11, 2010. http://coloradostatesman.com/content/991886-ethics-watch-weighs-legislative-session
GEORGIA The state ethics commission will have to execute the increased duties given to them by the 2010 ethics reform bill without increased funding. The new changes, effective in January, will require candidates for local offices to file campaign disclosures with the commission.
Atlanta Journal Constitution. June 14, 2010. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/ethics-board-gains-work-548353.html
ILLINOIS Editorial: Tom Cross, House Minority Leader, argues for ethics, redistricting and campaign finance reform.
STLToday.com. June 10, 2010. http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/editorialcommentary/story/76D353194AB41AB48625773D007F2CAF?OpenDocument
The Chicago Sun Times and the Better Government Association of Chicago area governments recently reviewed the practice of government entities using public funds for lobbying – both internally and in hiring lobbyists.
Chicago Sun-Times. June 14, 2010. http://www.suntimes.com/news/watchdogs/2389170,CST-NWS-watchdogs14.article
INDIANA The press continues to discuss 2010 ethics reforms and potential, unintentional loopholes in the legislation. The executive director of the Lobby Registration Commission stated at its last public meeting that the language in the bill appears to “exempt any and all reporting of expenditures if the lobbying is done at the committee level.” Another potential loophole exists in the list of organizations that are exempt from reporting requirements – national organizations that must be “established for the education and support of legislative leadership, legislators, legislative staff or related government employees.” The term “education” may need to be clarified, according to the Courier & Press. The Commission plans to meet soon to interpret the law, and some legislators think that the loopholes may be corrected next session or during the Legislature’s Organization Day, after November elections.
Evansville Courier & Press. June 9, 2010. http://www.courierpress.com/news/2010/jun/09/loopholes-found-in-state-lobby-law/
EDITORIAL: Ethics Reform. Fix it.
Evansville Courier & Press. June 11, 2010. http://www.courierpress.com/news/2010/jun/11/ethics-reform-the-issue-holes-found-in-new-state/
LOUISIANA Governor Jindal plans to veto legislation that would allow the identity of those who file ethics complaints to be disclosed. The Governor’s spokesperson stated that he is concerned that such disclosures would discourage reporting. Similar legislation was vetoed by the Governor in 2009.
The Advocate. June 11, 2010. http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/96116809.html
NEW YORK A report issued by the New York Public Research Group shows that lobbyists have contributed at least $2.2 million to political campaigns since late 2008. New York has not specific prohibitions on lobbyists giving campaign contributions. According to NCSL, nineteen states place no specific limitations on lobbyists.
Democrat and Chronicle. June 8, 2010. http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20100608/NEWS01/6080331/Lobbyists--campaign-donations-flow
WAMC. June 8, 2010. http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wamc/news.newsmain/article/0/0/1660520/WAMC.New.York.News/Report.NY.Lobbyists.Spend.Freely
NORTH CAROLINA Opinion: It’s time for Senate to move on key ethics bills.
Charlotte Observer. June 8, 2010. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/06/08/1485102/its-time-for-senate-to-move-on.html
OKLAHOMA An investigation is being conducted as to whether three legislators violated their oaths of office by arranging for a state job for a current senator so that a house member could run for her Senate seat. The job would have been created by a bill passed by the Legislature this past session, but it was vetoed by the Governor.
The Oklahoman. June 8, 2010. http://www.newsok.com/alleged-plot-would-have-caused-oklahoma-senators-pension-to-soar/article/3467014?custom_click=headlines_widget
ALASKA The Select Committee on Legislative Ethics adopted a new policy that will allow legislators to campaign during state-funded trips, as long as the primary purpose of the trip is state business. One of the members who voted against the policy said it will be unfair to challengers trying to unseat incumbents. Those in favor of the change gave the example that rural legislators would now be able to fundraise during special session in Anchorage, whereas before only legislators from Anchorage would be able to do so.
Miami Herald. May 28, 2010. http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/05/28/1652673/alaska-ethics-panel-oks-campaigning.html
ARIZONA The Citizens Clean Election Commission ordered a House member to vacate his seat, after finding that he knowingly supplemented his publically funded election campaign with private money. The member is disputing the claim and has already lost one appeal to maintain the seat.
The Associated Press. May 28, 2010. http://azcapitoltimes.com/blog/2010/05/28/officials-say-quellands-seat-now-vacant/
ILLINOIS The jury selection for the trial of impeached Governor Blagojevich began on Thursday, June 3. He is accused of using his public position for personal gain. Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty and has said he will testify.
New York Times. June, 2, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/03/us/03blago.html?src=mv
INDIANA Opinion: Fix the ethics reform loopholes.
Indianapolis Star. June 2, 2010. http://www.indystar.com/article/20100602/OPINION08/6020324/1291/OPINION08/Fix-the-ethics-reform-loopholes
KANSAS The state ethics commission released data showing that lobbyists reported spending over $1.1 million for the 2010 legislative session – an amount that could possibly set a record in the state.
Kansas City Star. June 6, 2010. http://www.kansascity.com/2010/06/06/1997037/lobbyist-spending-in-kansas-surges.html
MINNESOTA The Senate Ethics Committee publicly reprimanded a member, saying he violated “the accepted norms of Senate behavior” and “threatened public confidence in our legislative institution and its processes” by helping to get special fishing regulations for a lake where he owns a cabin.
Star Tribune. June 4, 2010. http://www.startribune.com/templates/fdcp?1275941424360
PoliticsinMinnesota.com. June 2, 2010. http://politicsinminnesota.com/blog/2010/06/ethics-committee-chaudharys-conduct-threatened-public-confidence-in-legislature/
NEW JERSEY The Senate is considering legislation that would require local governments to file annual reports about their use of public money to pay lobbyists and include an explanation as to why the same service could not be provided in some other way. Lobbyists who are paid with public dollars would also have to disclose information. A review by the Star-Ledger found that public entities paid out at least $2.1 million to lobbyists in 2009.
NJ.com. June 3, 2010. http://blog.nj.com/ledgerupdates_impact/print.html?entry=/2010/06/nj_senate_approves_bill_that_w.html
PENNSYLVANIA After a preliminary hearing, a district judge ruled that ten Republicans, including former legislators and legislative staff, will stand trial for accusations in the ongoing “Bonusgate” scandal. The prosecution contends that the public officials used state funding to pay for campaign technology. Ten Democrats have been convicted or pleaded guilty to charges for paying state bonuses to employees for campaign work.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. May 28, 2010. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10148/1061389-454.stm
RHODE ISLAND The House voted to put a measure on the ballot that would ask voters to amend the state constitution to reinstate the ethics commission with oversight of lawmakers’ votes in cases where there may be a conflict of interest. The amendment would also solidify the commission’s ability to investigate and prosecute legislators. Last year the Supreme Court ruled that the commission could not punish legislators who improperly vote for bills, relying on the constitution’s speech in debate clause. The bill now heads to the Senate.
Journal Inquirer. June 3, 2010. http://www.journalinquirer.com/articles/2010/06/03/connecticut_and_region/doc4c07a5518837e017327482.prt
Providence Journal. June 2, 2010. http://newsblog.projo.com/2010/06/ri-house-oks-ballot-item-to-ti.html
TEXAS Some lobbyists are applying for concealed handgun permits in order to circumvent long security lines at the capitol. Metal detectors were installed following a shooting incident earlier in the year and only members, identified state employees and those carrying a handgun license are exempt from passing through. Said one lobbyist, “nobody I know is getting it for purposes of a gun…they are getting it strictly for purposes of expediency.” Some predict the legislature will make changes to the rules before the start of the 2011 legislative session in order to accommodate frequent visitors to the capitol.
Houston Chronicle. June 2, 2010. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7033794.html
UTAH The state supreme court is considering whether or not the state should accept online signatures for ballot initiative petitions and Utahns for Ethical Government will file an amicus curie brief on the case. The group, which failed to meet the signature threshold in their attempt to qualify a 2011 ethics reform initiative, is attempting to place the measure on the 2012 ballot. No state currently accepts electronic signatures.
ABC4.com. June 6, 2010. http://www.abc4.com/content/news/top%20stories/story/Utah-high-court-considers-online-signatures-case/dMb12MbXfEmNig_B8RGfgA.cspx
ALABAMA Allegations of vote buying and a subsequent investigation into the charges have caused debate over allowing convicted lobbyists return to lobbying. The director of the state ethics commission said the practice is the exception, not the rule. Peggy Kerns of NCSL’s Ethics Center concurred, saying that “Alabama mirrors much of the rest of the country in (this) regard” and that it is “something of interest because legislatures try to maintain ethical standards…so they impose laws upon themselves, and it would follow that they would want to put curbs on lobbyists too.” Former and current state officials also mentioned a need for great transparency and tighter gift restrictions on lobbyist gift-giving.
Montgomery Advertiser. May 23, 2010. http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/article/20100523/NEWS/5230334/Corruption-conviction-no-barrier-for-lobbyists
Opinion: They didn’t deliver. “Evaluating the last four legislative sessions…only intensifies the need for passage of ethics and election reform legislation.
Montgomery Advertiser. May 14, 2010. http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/fdcp/?1274133733769
ALASKA Opinion: The proposed “Anti-Corruption Act” could be costly in several ways.
Juneau Empire. May 16, 2010. http://www.juneauempire.com/stories/051610/opi_640074253.shtml
FLORIDA A circuit judge refused to dismiss charges of grand theft and conspiracy against the former Speaker Sansom. The judge ruled that the state’s theft statute can be applied to the circumstances of the case, and that there is no difference between allegations of stealing from the public at large or from an individual. The former Speaker resigned in February just prior to House hearings on an ethics complaint against him for the same matter. The state filed the theft and conspiracy charges, along with lying to a grand jury during a hearing on misconduct charges.
The Miami Herald. May 17, 2010. http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/05/17/1633801/fla-judge-refuses-to-dismiss-sansom.html
The legislature considered, but failed to pass, several ethics bills in the 2010 session, including HB 243, which would have changed lobbying, legislative and consulting rules and HB 587, which would have modified conflict of interest provisions.
Progressive States Network. May 13, 2010. http://progressivestates.org/print/25133
LOUISIANA The Board of Ethics continues to struggle with rulings made by the administrative law panel charged with deciding ethics cases. The panel recently ruled that no fine would be assessed in a campaign finance case because the contributor was unaware of state filing requirements. The Board contends that accepting this decision sets bad precedent and is refusing to accept and adopt the opinion as required by state law.
The Advocate. May 22, 2010. http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/94640869.html
Opinion: Jindal ‘reforms’ sap ethics law.
2The Advocate. May 12, 2010. http://www.2theadvocate.com/opinion/93519939.html
MISSOURI Ethics legislation was enacted during the 2010 session. If signed by the governor, the bill will strengthen the investigatory powers of the state ethics commission and restricts PAC to PAC contributions. The legislature failed to reinstate campaign contribution limits or create a revolving door limit.
Associated Press. May 16, 2010. http://www.semissourian.com/story/1635096.html
NEW YORK A coalition of ethics reformers, named “New York Uprising,” has mailed pledges to all incumbents and candidates for state office, asking them to sign a public statement supporting stronger ethics and financial disclosure statements.
New York Times. May 23, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/24/nyregion/24pledge.html
Opinion: Our view: Governor Patterson must act on ethics reform.
Observer-Dispatch. May 12, 2010. http://www.uticaod.com/opinion/x2084242013/Our-view-Gov-Paterson-must-act-on-ethics-reform
Opinion: Protect legislators from themselves.
Daily Freeman. May 16, 2010. http://www.dailyfreeman.com/articles/2010/05/16/opinion/doc4be8454548ff9771983811.txt
NORTH CAROLINA The Legislature may consider campaign finance and ethics reform legislation during the 2010 “short session,” the focus of which is typically budget measures. The Governor has proposed several changes, including a gift ban for all state employees, a prohibition on certain campaign contributions from state vendors, and a revolving door ban on state officials. Last year the House passed a trio of bills that have carried over to the Senate for this session. House proposals would also create a revolving door limit for top administration officials, ban contractors for certain contributions, and require certain appointed officials to disclose campaign contributions and fundraising.
News-Observer. May 9, 2010. http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/05/09/474171/obstacles-await-ethics-bills-in.html
Editorial: Perdue’s reforms. “Governor Perdue had strong ideas for reforming state government, but, curiously, they never made it into her short-session agenda.”
Winston-Salem Journal. May 17, 2010. http://www2.journalnow.com/content/2010/may/17/perdues-reforms/opinion-editorials/
OKLAHOMA The ethics commission has proposed two measures, and one, which would prohibit a state official or employee from “attempting or threatening to use” his or her official position to procure special treatment or money, has generated much discussion among members. Concerns were raised over whether or not legislators could purchase tickets to charitable causes with campaign or surplus funds. The commission holds hearings on proposals throughout the year and hears comments on rules in January before voting on which to pass on for legislative consideration. The legislature and governor can only reject the proposals. The rules will take effect if the legislature fails to act by the end of session.
Newsok.com. May 15, 2010. http://newsok.com/changes-sought-in-proposed-oklahoma-ethics-rules/article/3461478
PENNSYLVANIA A judge handed down the first sentence in the "bonusgate" scandal - a former staffer for House Democrats received 21 to 60 months in prison and fines and restitution totaling over $60,000.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. May 22, 2010. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10142/1060109-454.stm
UTAH The bipartisan House and Senate interim ethics committee is again meeting to consider ethics changes. The committee’s main charge is to consider amending the Legislature’s code of conduct. Several changes are being reviewed, but the most popular seem to be those that would mix broad ethics rules with the ability to ask for opinions from the new independent ethics committee. These opinions, along with those from the House and Senate ethics committees, would form a type of case law that defines proper and improper conduct. The interim committee’s recommendations will eventually go before the full Legislature during the 2011 session.
Deseret News. May 21, 2010. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700033722/Utah-legislators-mull-ethics-reform.html
WISCONSIN The fate of a bill that would allow the state to post online, searchable financial disclosure statements from public officials is in question, after the sponsor announced his legislative retirement at the end of the year. Current law requires those requesting such information to disclosure their identities, which are then passed along to the elected official. The information is not available online at present. The bill, supported by the state’s Government Accountability Board and good government groups was not scheduled for an Assembly vote prior to the legislature’s adjournment.
The Northwestern. May 16, 2010. http://www.thenorthwestern.com/article/20100516/OSH0101/100515071/1987/OSHopinion/Effort-to-improve-access-to-officials-finances-stalls
GEORGIA Ethics reform passed the legislature with near-unanimous support. The measure, which now awaits the Governor’s signature, would broaden the powers of the ethics commission, impose stricter and more frequent lobbyist and legislator reporting requirements, and increases penalties for violations. Additionally, a ban on lobbyists texting legislators during session or committee meetings was dropped from the bill. Two Democrat-sponsored amendments failed: a monetary threshold on gifts from lobbyists to legislators and a revolving door provision.
Atlanta Journal Constitution. April 21, 2010. http://www.ajc.com/news/ethics-bill-passes-house-481292.html
MINNESOTA The House amended its rules to prohibit any lobbyist or head of an executive agency from sitting with legislators during a committee hearing. The change was made after a joint committee was criticized for allowing a union official and the state education commissioner to sit at the table during committee discussions.
Pioneer Press. April 21, 2010. http://www.twincities.com/ci_14929736
NEW YORK The Attorney General has filed a civil lawsuit against the Senate Majority Leader, accusing him of stealing state money through his nonprofit corporation. The lawsuit alleges that more than $14 million was used for meals, vacation and campaign expenses and seeks to remove the Majority Leader and the entire board of directors from governance of the nonprofit. The senator refused to address the charges, saying he would do so in court.
New York Times. April 20, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/21/nyregion/21espada.html
New York Times. April 21, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/22/nyregion/22bronx.html?ref=todayspaper
Albany Times Union. April 21, 2010. http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/storyprint.asp?StoryID=923325
Albany Times Union. April 21, 2010. http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/storyprint.asp?StoryID=923581
PENNSYLVANIA A preliminary hearing was held to examine corruption charges filed against a former Republican Speaker and top caucus staff. Testifying under immunity, a former staffer said that the former Speaker was aware that taxpayer-funded technology, contracts and voter lists were being used in campaigns. The defense maintains that state contracts with private computer companies were for legitimate legislative purposes, even if the information was later used for campaigning. The hearing is expected to last at least two more days.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. April 22, 2010. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/state/print_677574.html
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. April 22, 2010. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10112/1052408-454.stm
Good government groups and unions called on the Attorney General asked to step down from his position while running for governor and is urging the legislature to enact a “resign to run” law. His office replied he has no plans to step down. Some democrats have criticized the Attorney General, a republican, for charging more democrats than republicans in the ongoing “Bonusgate” investigations.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. April 21, 2010. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10111/1052052-454.stm
WISCONSIN The Assembly censured a member who was arrested three times in one year for driving under the influence. Some members called for his expulsion and resignation.
Wisconsin State Journal. April 21, 2010. http://host.madison.com/news/state-and-regional/wisconsin/article_2e232ac8-8c0a-50ee-bfba-c80120493bf3.html
GEORGIA The press and good government groups continue to discuss proposed ethics reforms, whether or not they go far enough, and the impact lobbyists have on the legislative process. The Speaker said that his proposals focus on disclosure and transparency.
Macon.com. April 11, 2010. http://www.macon.com/2010/04/11/1090293/ethics-talk-doesnt-slow-down-lobbying.html
KENTUCKY Legislative leadership has asked state lobbyists and others for contributions to help host the NCSL Legislative Summit in July. The ethics commission said such solicitations are permissible under the ethics code as long as they are broad-based and most of the recipients are not lobbyists or their employers.
Courier-Journal. April 9, 2010. http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20100409/NEWS01/4090362/Leading+lawmakers+ask+lobbyists+to+help+fund+convention
LOUISIANA A proposal would prevent contractors who have been found or plead guilty to white-collar crimes from bidding on local, parish or state construction projects either permanently or for five years, depending on the crime.
Nola.com. April 14, 2010. http://blog.nola.com/politics/print.html?entry=/2010/04/white-collar_criminals_couldnt.html
MISSOURI Capitol observers speculate that the Senate’s comprehensive ethics bill will have major changes made to it before it reaches the House floor, in particular the removal of several campaign finance reforms. A House committee added a one-year legislator to lobbyist revolving door amendment, but the Senate is thought to be against the change.
Kansas City Star. April 15, 2010. http://primebuzz.kcstar.com/?q=node/22053
NEW YORK Good government groups met in Albany, asking legislators to sign a pledge to commit to addressing independent, powerful ethics commissions, redistricting reforms, and lowered campaign contribution limits, among others changes. Legislators were given a May 15 deadline and their responses will be made public.
Democrat and Chronicle. April 15, 2010. http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20100416/NEWS01/4160318
PENNSYLVANIA A county judge denied the defense’s motion for a mistrial in the recent “Bonusgate” trial.
Post-Gazette. April 16, 2010. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10106/1050918-454.stm
UTAH According to an analysis by the Deseret News, lobbyist gift reforms over the past year have resulted in a 20 percent decrease in gifts, but the impact on total spending has not been as significant. Under 2010 changes to the law, all non-meal lobbyist gifts over $10 will be banned, with some exceptions.
Deseret News. April 13, 2010. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700024354/Utahs-lobbyist-gift-reform-maybe-not-so-significant.html
The citizen initiative that would create an independent ethics commission has potentially failed to garner the 95,000 signatures needed to be on the ballot. The organizers of the measure are waiting to count signatures from petition packets that were sent in the mail. The group gathered other signatures on its website, but the Lieutenant Governor claims that the online signatures are not valid. The citizen group also filed a temporary restraining order to keep petitioner names private for the time being.
Deseret News. April 15, 2010. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700024833/Citizens-initiatives-Fair-Boundaries-falls-short-ethics-supporters-keep-fighting.html
VIRGINIA The Governor has made an amendatory veto to ethics legislation, reversing a provision that would require the legislature’s ethics committees to continue to review a potential ethics violation even if the member leaves office. The Governor’s change would require that the investigation be passed off to the attorney general’s office. The bill’s sponsor claims the amendment “waters down” the measure. The Governor also made an amendment that would prevent complaints from being filed within 60 days of an election. As passed, the bill allows complaints within that window, but requires that they be held until after an election to avoid politicizing them.
Virginia Pilot. April 15, 2010. http://www.istockanalyst.com/article/viewiStockNews/articleid/4031011
ALABAMA Federal and state investigators met with legislative leadership due to allegations of public corruption in the passage of gaming legislation. The bill, passed by the Senate and waiting action in the House, would allow voters to weigh in on the taxation and regulation of gaming. The bill passed on party lines. The Governor and other Republicans claim that the bill, along with an earlier proposal, provide monopolies to existing casinos and would allow a simple majority vote in both chambers to decide gaming issues. Democrats claim that the investigation seems suspicious given the Governor’s opposition to the issue. Federal officials were vague on the details of the investigation, but said they had “substantial evidence to believe crimes had taken place.”
Montgomery Advertiser. April 2, 2010. http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/article/20100402/NEWS02/4020312/1009/news02/FBI-investigates-corruption-in-bingo-battle
Montgomery Advertiser. April 7, 2010. http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=20104070391
ALASKA The House defeated a bill that would have limited the governor’s selection of appointees to the Alaska Personnel Board. The bill was proposed due to proceedings that occurred during Governor Palin’s tenure. Members of the Board, which were appointed by Palin, oversaw the investigation of complaints against the Governor and largely exonerated her. The bill could receive reconsideration later in the week.
Anchorage Daily News. April 5, 2010. http://www.adn.com/2010/04/05/1213194/ethics-panel-bill-fails-house.html
ILLINOIS A small change included in an ethics bill passed last year has unintended consequences with respect to bills and reimbursements paid by the state for legislator expenses.
The Daily Herald. April 1, 2010. http://www.dailyherald.com/story/print/?id=370147
KANSAS A bipartisan legislative panel found that the Speaker violated no ethical rules by taking on clients in a lawsuit against the state and will face no punishment. The panel recommended that the legislature rewrite ethics rules to prevent potential conflicts of interest in the future.
Kansas City Star. March 30, 2010. http://www.kansascity.com/2010/03/30/1847329/kansas-legislative-panel-finds.html
NEW YORK The legislative ethics commission issued an opinion stating that the state’s gift ban does not apply to food and drink at “widely attended” lobbyist-sponsored events. The state’s Public Integrity Commission, which regulates the executive branch and lobbyists, has issued a different interpretation of state law, saying that “widely attended” means that there must be at least 25 people at the event who are not affiliated with legislators or lobbyists. The Commission has fined10 lobbyist groups due to this issue since late last year. The legislative commission advises that the 25 attendees can be anyone.
New York Daily News. April 3, 2010. http://www.nydailynews.com/fdcp?1270590332487
Rules prohibit lobbyists from accessing certain areas of the Capitol, but the rules are not always enforced. This article examines the practice.
New York Times. March 30, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/nyregion/30hallway.html
NORTH CAROLINA Governor Perdue is proposing a package of ethics reform, which would entail both legislative action and executive orders. The changes target limiting contractor’s influence on state employees, pay-to-play provisions, extending employee ethics policies to cover all state employees, revolving door provisions for employees, and setting certain requirements for appointees to boards and commissions.
The Gov Monitor. April 6, 2010. http://thegovmonitor.com/world_news/united_states/north-carolina-to-strengthen-ethics-requirements-for-state-employees-27315.html
PENNSYLVANIA A judge will hold an April 9 hearing to consider allegations of juror misconduct in the trial of former House Majority Leader Veon.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. April 2, 2010. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/state/print_674544.html
SOUTH CAROLINA Governor Sanford has paid the largest ethics fine in state history - $74,000 in fines and $36,498 for investigation and ethics commission costs for failing to abide by state travel guidelines and for using public resources for personal and political travel. He has also agreed to reimburse state agencies and his campaign a total of $29,736 for other expenses.
The State. April 2, 2010. http://www.thestate.com/2010/03/18/1206543/sanford-agrees-to-pay-74000-fine.html
UTAH The creators of two initiatives aimed at changing state ethics, campaign and redistricting laws say that they currently lack enough signatures to place the measures on the 2010 ballot. The deadline is April 15. The Speaker has spoken out against the initiatives, pointing to ethics bills passed during the 2009 and 2010 legislative sessions that address petitioners concerns.
The Spectrum. April 6, 2010. http://www.thespectrum.com/print/article/20100406/NEWS01/4060331/Petitioners-deadline-nears
Salt Lake Tribune. April 1, 2010. http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_14804377
GEORGIA The Speaker introduced an ethics reform package, designed to rename and strengthen the powers of the ethics commission, impose stricter and more frequent lobbyist and legislator reporting requirements, increase fines for violations, and prohibit lobbyists from texting or emailing legislators during meetings. The House Ethics Commission unanimously supported the changes, but good government groups were unhappy with the proposal. House Democrats proposed amendments that would have placed a monetary threshold on lobbyist to legislator gifts but they failed to pass.
Atlanta Journal Constitution. March 25, 2010. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/ralston-introduces-ethics-legislation-403767.html
IOWA The Des Moines Register reports that some lobbyists have been complaining about being asked for campaign contributions during legislative session. Legislators may not individually fundraise during session, but political parties are allowed to ask for or receive donations. Des Moines Register. March 25, 2010. http://www.desmoinesregister.com/fdcp/?1269641259532
KANSAS The Speaker testified before a special investigatory panel formed to consider a misconduct complaint filed by the House minority. In his testimony, the Speaker claimed he violated no state law, ethics rule, or code of conduct by representing clients in a lawsuit against the state. The Minority Leader testified last week to the panel that the Speaker created a conflict of interest by filing the lawsuit while maintaining his authority over the appropriations process, which financially benefited his clients. Democrats urged the Speaker to withdraw from the lawsuit, but the Speaker stated no impropriety exists and that the case is an example of “gotcha politics.”
Capital-Journal. March 23, 2010. http://cjonline.com/news/legislature/2010-03-23/oneal_seeks_complaint_dismissal
LOUISIANA The legislature convenes its 2010 session this week and may tweak changes to the ethics laws passed in 2008. House bills 99, 240, 1143, 1178, 1179, 1202 and Senate bills 310 and 418 all alter some aspect of ethics oversight, from changing the manner in which administrative law judges are selected to altering the appeals process.
Daily Comet. March 28, 2010. http://www.dailycomet.com/article/20100328/APN/1003282370?p=1&tc=pg
MICHIGAN Opinion: Lawmaker ethics ever more weighty.
South Bend Tribune. March 23, 2010. http://www.southbendtribune.com/article/20100323/Opinion/3230362/-1/googleNews
NEW YORK Several high ranking Republican public officials and good government groups scolded Senate Democrats for writing a letter that asked union officials for campaign donations in exchange for access, deeming the action “the ultimate pay to play.”
New York Post. March 25, 2010. http://www.dailycomet.com/article/20100328/APN/1003282370?p=1&tc=pg
PENNSYLVANIA HB 2271 goes to the full House for consideration – the measure would prohibit legislators from sending mass mailings 60 days prior to an election. The bill’s sponsor said that the goal of the legislation is to ensure that public resources are not diverted to influence political campaigns.
Phillyburbs.com. March 25, 2010. http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/news_details/article/92/2010/march/25/bradford-election-reform-bill-advances-out-of-committee.html
The former House majority leader and former House Democratic aides were found guilty of several criminal counts in the ongoing scandal known as “Bonusgate,” where legislative staff were paid state-funded bonus for doing political work.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. March 23, 2010. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10082/1044946-454.stm
SOUTH CAROLINA The Senate is considering a bill that would more quickly publicize the details of ethics investigations against public officials. Current law says that such details should be released only after it is found that ethics laws have been broken. The bill would require their release when charges are issued.
The Sun News. March 26, 2010. http://www.thesunnews.com/2010/03/26/1389020/sc-legislative-action-for-the.html
Editorial: Sanford ethics inquiry can lead to good changes.
Island Packet. March 24, 2010. http://www.islandpacket.com/2010/03/24/1182680/sanford-ethics-inquiry-can-lead.html
WASHINGTON The legislature passed HB 1761, which would allow members’ official state websites to remain live during the interim. Currently, the websites are removed in advance of campaign season, both in order to keep the websites from being used as political tools and to prevent legislative staff from being asked to work on anything campaign-related. The bill awaits the Governor’s signature.
The News Tribune. March 19, 2010. http://www.thenewstribune.com/2010/03/19/1115455/lawmakers-matter-might-stay-online.html
ALABAMA A House member has introduced legislation that would require lobbyists to disclose expenditures to all public officials. It would also require the Ethics Commission to post lobbyist expenditures online, limit gifts to officials, give subpoena power to the Ethics Commission, limit free tickets for officials to attend football games, require officials to disclose income from contracts and jobs related to state and local government. The governor supports the bill, and is also advocating for a bill that has already passed the House which prohibits transfers between political action committees.
Montgomery Advertiser. March 18, 2010. http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/fdcp/?1268930198267
ALASKA The legislature is debating a change to the appointment process for the state personnel board, which is tasked with looking into ethics complaints against the governor and executive branch. Currently the governor can select whomever they prefer, as long as they are not state employees. No more than two of the three board members can be of the same political party. HB 348 would require that the governor choose from a list submitted by the chief justice of the state supreme court and would expand the board to five members.
Anchorage Daily News. March 17, 2010. http://www.adn.com/2010/03/16/v-printer/1186186/personnel-board-appointments-get.html
FLORIDA Commentary: Political gain in ethics reform. The public’s broad-based call for real accountability and transparency in government offers a clear imperative for legislative leaders and anyone seeking elective offices in Florida. Several bills have been introduced on the topic, including HB 585/SB 1076, which would criminalize the willful failure to disclose financial interests, and HB 489/SB 734, which would increase the penalties for crimes facilitated by a public servant misusing his office.
Palm Beach Post. March 19, 2010. http://www.palmbeachpost.com/opinion/commentary/commentary-political-gain-in-ethics-reform-402081.html
GEORGIA Opinion: GOP must move on ethics reform. "The story of the demise of the former Speaker shook the public’s trust. Ethics reform was demanded and promised. Citizens are about to find out how much ethics reform they will get." HB 920, which sets a monetary threshold for lobbyist gifts to legislators is likely to be substituted, most likely for a full ethics reform package.
Atlanta Journal Constitution. March 17, 2010. http://blogs.ajc.com/kyle-wingfield/2010/03/17/gop-must-move-on-ethics-reform/?cxntfid=blogs_kyle_wingfield
Capitol lobbyists have spent less money during this year’s session than in years past, but observers say the atmosphere may be more charged than usual.
Atlanta Journal Constitution. March 17, 2010. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/with-dollars-scarce-lobbying-376843.html
In light of recent ethics-related problems in Georgia, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reflects on the reforms that occurred in Tennessee after its legislature and lobbyists faced problems due to corruption and scandal.
Atlanta Journal Constitution. March 15, 2010. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/scandals-shock-led-to-371024.html
INDIANA The Governor signed House Enrolled Act 1001, which imposes a one year revolving door ban on legislators who would be lobbyists, requires tougher lobbyist reporting, and requires universities to report on gifts and tickets given to legislators.
Indianapolis Star. March 18, 2010. http://www.indystar.com/article/20100318/NEWS05/3180438/-1/ARCHIVE/Daniels-signs-23-bills-on-lobbying-and-other-issues
KANSAS Opinion: Speaker should have known better. "In general, whatever the ethics laws and rules applicable to their offices, public officials should ask themselves one simple question before they act: How will this look?" House Democratic leaders have filed an ethics complaint against the Speaker, triggering an investigation.
Wichita Eagle. March 18, 2010. http://www.kansas.com/2010/03/18/1230337/speaker-should-have-known-better.html
NEW YORK Good government groups will convene in Albany on May 5 to ask questions of and try to collaborate with lawmakers and gubernatorial candidates on ethics reform. The purpose of the forum is to discover “what the legislative leaders and gubernatorial candidates commit to actually being able to do.”
Democrat and Chronicle. March 15, 2010. http://www.democratandchronicle.com/fdcp/?1268938665142
The New York City Bar Association released a report that suggestions ethics reforms, including changes to oversight and financial disclosure. While not in response to recent scandals, the report has received recognition from some legislators who are interest in reform.
Legislative Gazette. March 15, 2010. http://www.legislativegazette.com/Articles-c-2010-03-15-66054.113122_NYC_Bar_has_ideas_for_ethics_reform.html
OKLAHOMA A House committee heard testimony alleging that reprimands issued by the state ethics commission against state employees or candidates are unconstitutional. An attorney that frequently appears before the commission stated that by making and interpreting rules, receiving and investigating complaints, and ruling and issuing punishments the commission is “conducting functions that traditionally are divided among the three basic forms of government.” The commission’s director said that its actions are constitutional and that no one has challenged the reprimands.
The Oklahoman. March 18, 2010. http://newsok.com/oklahoma-ethics-panels-actions-are-challenged/article/3447352?custom_click=headlines_widget
VIRGINIA The legislature passed the first changes to its conflict of interest laws in decades. One bill will require that the legislative ethics panel hold its meetings in public once an investigation moves beyond preliminary proceedings and requires the panel to continue an investigation even if a legislator resigns from office. The second bill requires legislators to disclose salaries from state or local government if they exceed $10,000. The governor has said he will sign the bills. Several other reforms did not pass – topics include gift bans, increased lobbyist disclosure requirements, and the creation of a panel to review legislator financial disclosure forms. Pushes for reform came this session after a former House member became the subject of a federal investigation for seeking a job with a state university while securing funding for the school.
The Washington Post. March 13, 2010. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/12/AR2010031204139.html
WASHINGTON Opinion: Removal of ethics board sends wrong message. The legislature is examining the elimination of the Executive Ethics Board and the Olympian feels it sends the wrong message.
The Olympian. March 9, 2010. http://www.theolympian.com/2010/03/09/1165760/removal-of-ethics-board-sends.html
WEST VIRGINIA The legislature failed to pass HB 4016 during the regular session, which would have changed legislator financial disclosure requirements and implemented a lobbying revolving door ban on legislators and staff. The House unanimously passed the bill but it died in a Senate committee. Some House members are urging the Governor to resurrect the bill by placing on the agenda for the legislature’s special session, which began on March 15.
Charleston Gazette. March 12, 2010. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/with-dollars-scarce-lobbying-376843.html
Associated Press. March 16, 2010. http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/news_details/article/92/2010/march/16/wva-gov-unconvinced-of-need-to-boost-ethics-law.html
ALABAMA Editorial: Stronger ethics laws? Bingo! “It’s time state lawmakers pass what most of them promised during their campaigns – stronger ethics laws.”
Al.com. March 4, 2010. http://blog.al.com/times-views/2010/03/editorial_stronger_ethics_laws.html
ALASKA The legislature is examining a bill that would change a lobbyist reporting requirement. Currently, lobbyists must disclose the amount spent on meals to legislators if the cost is over $15. The new legislation would increase the threshold to $50. HB 193 also contains provisions that clarifies allowed legislator-constituent activities and when they can participate in charity events paid by others.
Anchorage Daily News. February 22, 2010. http://www.adn.com/2010/02/22/1152154/15-meals-not-enough-for-legislators.html
Newsminer.com. March 3, 2010. http://newsminer.com/view/full_story/6550583/article-Duo-looks-to-spur-action-on-ethics-bill?instance=home_news_window_left_bullets
CONNECTICUT The chairman of the state ethics board resigned over allegations and an investigation into prohibited campaign contributions he made in 2008.
Hartford Courant. March 5, 2010. http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-ethics-chairman-resigns-0305.artmar05,0,1907616.story
FLORIDA The legislature is once again tackling ethics-related reforms. The Senate passed and the House is considering a bill that would tighten ethics rules for the state public service commission. Several senators are also proposing legislation that would require that legislators abstain from voting on bills that benefit themselves, their relatives or business associates, and would create tougher penalties for crimes committed in an official capacity.
Miami Herald. February 28, 2010. http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/02/28/1504457/amid-scandal-after-scandal-fla.html
Miami Herald, March 4, 2010. http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/03/04/1511611/florida-house-committee-reviews.html
IDAHO Idaho’s conflict of interest and voting policy was examined in the press after a House committee vote. Legislative rules allow members to vote for bills as long as they disclose a conflict. Peggy Kerns of the Ethics Center said that “allowing legislators to vote on any bill means they must take extra care to avoid the appearance of impropriety.”
Idaho Statesman. February 24, 2010. http://www.idahostatesman.com/2010/02/24/1094055/idaho-senators-vote-raises-conflict.html
INDIANA The legislature has sent an ethics reform bill to the Governor. Called “the most sweeping legislative ethics and lobbying reforms in decades,” it passed with unanimous consent in both chambers. Changes include a one year revolving door provision, a revised monetary threshold for lobbyist gift reporting, a conflict of interest reporting requirement for lobbyists, and a requirement that university legislative liaisons register as lobbyists. A pay-to-play provision failed in the Senate. Peggy Kerns, Director of NCSL’s Ethics Center stated that “Indiana is taking significant steps toward reform.” Some legislators and advocates have said that they will push for more changes next year.
Indianapolis Star. March 3, 2010. http://www.indystar.com/article/20100303/NEWS05/3030337/Ethics-bill-is-hailed-as-a-starting-point
The Associated Press. March 3, 2010. http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9E78R902.htm
KANSAS Debate over the House Speaker’s involvement in a potential conflict of interest issue continues.
Topeka Capital-Journal. March 3, 2010. http://cjonline.com/news/local/2010-03-03/oneal_fires_back
KENTUCKY The Senate approved a bill that makes several ethics-related changes to the executive branch. SB 82 would require executive branch financial disclosures be posted online, prohibits state contractors from contributing to campaigns during the term of the contract and within 18 months of seeking one, and sets a waiting period for would-be contractors that have already contributed. The bill also increases the revolving door waiting period on certain executive branch officials, creates a new lobbyist registration fee, puts additional disclosure requirements on the Governor’s office, and provides for new selection methods for the executive branch ethics commission.
NKY.com. February 24, 2010. http://nky.cincinnati.com/article/AB/20100224/NEWS0103/2250330/Bill+aims+to+bolster+exec+branch+ethics+code
MISSOURI The Senate has voted unanimously to give the state ethics commission the ability to initiate its own investigations. A House committee released a comprehensive ethics reform bill after gleaning ideas from other bills and holding eight weeks-worth of bipartisan hearings. The bill contains provisions that are similar to those found in the Senate, but also bans legislators from working as political consultants, creates a revolving door law, and places new gift restrictions from lobbyists to legislators. The legislature now recesses for a week-long spring break.
Kansas City Star. March 4, 2010. http://www.kansascity.com/2010/03/04/1789965/ethics-reform-advances-in-missouri.html
NEW YORK The state continues to struggle with ethics-related issues. The Commission on Public Integrity has found that the Governor falsely testified under oath during an investigation into his acceptance of free World Series tickets. Many are calling for his resignation in light of this and an investigation by the Attorney General into whether or not he was involved in stifling domestic violence allegations against an aide.
New York Times. March 3, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/nyregion/04paterson.html?ref=todayspaper
Editorial: In governors, the averages aren’t good.
New York Times. March 3, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/nyregion/04towns.html?ref=todayspaper
SOUTH CAROLINA Editorial: Lawmakers should eliminate the flaws in travel policies.
Greenville News. March 5, 2010. http://www.greenvilleonline.com/article/20100305/OPINION/303050015/1004/NEWS01/Eliminate-flaws-in-state-travel
SOUTH DAKOTA This article explores the issue of requiring legislators to disclose lobbyist- and organization- funded travel.
Argus Leader. February 28, 2010. http://www.argusleader.com/fdcp/?1267637064472
UTAH The Senate continues with debate and discussion of ethics reforms, both in state law and chamber rule. Under consideration are bills and resolutions that would create an independent ethics commission and change conflict of interest and financial disclosures.
Deseret News. February 22, 2010. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700011314/Utah-Legislature-Senate-ethics-bills-gain-preliminary-approval.html
Salt Lake Tribune. March 2, 2010. http://www.sltrib.com/Utah/ci_14499267
Legislators and lobbyists are required to take an ethics training test before session adjourns, although many have not yet completed it. Many lobbyists claim they are not aware of the requirement.
Deseret News. February 25, 2010. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700011846/Utah-Legislature-Ethics-test-unknown-to-most.html
Editorial: Ethics reform advances marred by petty politics.
Deseret News. March 5, 2010. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700014101/Ethics-reform-advances-marred-by-petty-politics.html
WASHINGTON A House committee voted to eliminate funding for the state’s executive ethics board. Those voting in favor of the action stated that recent reports showed it had not completed many investigations and that employees would still be subject to ethics rules, thus their directors would be responsible for their enforcement.
Seattle Times. February 26, 2010. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/PrintStory.pl?document_id=2011203802&zsection_id=2008812028&slug=&date=20100226
WYOMING The Governor signed into law a “Cowboy Code of Ethics” for legislators and citizens. The aspirational statement calls for the demonstration of qualities such as courage, honesty, loyalty and fairness. Peggy Kerns of NCSL says that with respect to ethics statements, proof of their efficacy comes from action.
The Daily Progress. February 27, 2010. http://www2.dailyprogress.com/cdp/news/opinion/op_ed/article/spurring_new_look_at_ethics/52848
Los Angeles Times. March 3, 2010. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sns-ap-us-cowboy-ethics-wyoming,0,4824831.story
ALASKA A joint legislative committee held a public hearing on proposed ethics changes. The attorney general is attempting to make regulation changes that would repeal certain gift disclosure requirements and establish guidelines for state-paid travel for family members of the governor or lieutenant governor and state-paid legal bills for officials defending ethics complaints. State regulations are not subject to legislative approval, however the legislature provides oversight to ensure that they are allowed under state law, can express disapproval, and can propose new laws to override objectionable regulations.
Miami Herald. February 9, 2010. http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/02/09/1471385/alaska-debates-ethics-rules-raised.html
The House Judiciary Committee is seeking an opinion from the Legislative Ethics Committee on a state law that prevents elected officials from combining campaign business and state business trips.
Associate Press. February 17, 2010. http://www.ktuu.com/Global/story.asp?S=12002493
CONNECTICUT A senator wants to close a loophole that allows the members and staff of the state ethics commission to volunteer for political campaigns. Currently, state law bans commission members and employees from making campaign contributions. The executive director of the commission said she would not be opposed to a prohibition on volunteering for campaigns.
Hartford Currant. February 21, 2010. http://articles.courant.com/2010-02-21/news/hc-appeals-0221.artfeb21_1_state-ethics-ethics-watchdogs-citizen-s-ethics-advisory-board
DISTRICT of COLUMBIA The DC Council is considering the censure of fellow council member and former mayor Marion Barry, due to the public corruption charges. The Council retained an attorney to probe into allegations that Barry profited from a contract that he secured for a woman with whom he had a relationship, in addition to using earmarks to benefit friends and contributors. The attorney’s report recommends that the charges be passed to the U.S. attorney’s office for further investigation. Barry denies the accusations.
Washington Post. February 18, 2010. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-yn/content/article/2010/02/17/AR2010021704770.html
FLORIDA The former Speaker resigned his House seat the night before a legislative committee was slated to begin a trial examining alleged violations of conflict of interest provisions. His statement did not acknowledge any wrongdoing, but that he was stepping down out of “love for the House.” A criminal investigation and an investigation by the state ethics commission are still pending.
Miami Herald. February 21, 2010 . http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/02/22/1492991/on-eve-of-ethics-trial-sansom.html
GEORGIA It is common practice for lobbyists to provide food and drink to legislators at the capitol. Good government groups generally agree that such gifts pale in comparison compared to other ethics and lobbying issues, but that “overall it creates an atmosphere that excludes the average person.” This article examines the issue.
Atlanta Journal Constitution. February 19. 2010. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/an-endless-free-feast-315225.html
Lobbyist disclosures show that spending has dramatically decreased in the current legislative session. New House Speaker David Ralston attributes some of the drop to the scandal involving the former Speaker. Some lobbyists say it is due to the economic downturn.
Atlanta Journal Constitution. February 22, 2010. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/lobbyists-wary-of-spending-320442.html?cxtype=rss_news_128746
GUAM The Senate Ethics Committee finalized their hearing on a former member, after which they turned over the records of their proceedings to the legislature to be used to assist and inform current and future legislatures and the public. When the complaints were filed, there was no standing ethics committee and no records or past history of complaints found in legislative archives.
Pacific News Center. February 22, 2010. http://www.pacificnewscenter.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3254:legislatures-ethics-committee-wraps-up-rector-case-turns-over-records&catid=45:guam-news&Itemid=156
INDIANA EDITORIAL: Legislative reform. On ethics reform, the Indiana House appears headed for commendable action.
Courier Press. February 17, 2010. http://www.courierpress.com/news/2010/feb/17/legislative-reform-the-issue-ethics-bills-moving/
KANSAS The Speaker of the House has been accused of violating conflict of interest provisions by representing a group that has filed a lawsuit against the state. Some senators are calling for his resignation. The Speaker maintains he acted in compliance with state law.
Kansas City Star. February 10, 2010. http://primebuzz.kcstar.com/?q=node/21327
MISSOURI The Senate is now debating ethics reforms, and the latest concern is that proposed revolving door legislation might threaten the quality of state government operations and lead to inexperienced people holding important state jobs. The proposal would require former legislators to wait two years after leaving office before becoming lobbyists or being appointed to a state departmental position. Other bills would create an independent investigator for the state ethics commission, ban legislators from serving as political consultants to their colleagues, broaden the definition of lobbyist, and require certain legislative staff to file financial disclosure reports.
Stltoday.com. February 9, 2010. http://interact.stltoday.com/blogzone/political-fix/political-fix/2010/02/first-ethics-bill-expected-to-hit-floor-of-senate-on-wednesday/
Columbia Missourian. February 17, 2010. http://www.columbiamissourian.com/stories/2010/02/17/legislators-worry-ethics-bill-might-go-too-far/
The House is conducting public work sessions in an attempt to craft a single bipartisan bill. During committee debate as to whether or not legislators becoming lobbyists is a real concern among constituents, Chair Kevin Wilson said, “we (as lawmakers) have to be held to a higher standard…and if we don’t do something, we’ll be harshly judged.”
Stltoday.com. February 16, 2010. http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/emaf.nsf/Popup?ReadForm&db=stltoday%5Cnews%5Ccolumnists.nsf&docid=1EE1FC44C621798B862576CC005F1B4A
Joplin Globe. February 21, 2010. http://www.joplinglobe.com/local/local_story_052214542.html/resources_printstory
NEW MEXICO The legislature failed to pass a proposal that would have created a state ethics commission. The House passed the bill, but the Senate did not call it up for debate.
New Mexico Independent. February 18, 2010. http://newmexicoindependent.com/48094/better-not-complain-about-public-ethics-violations-itll-cost-you
New Mexico Independent. February 18, 2010. http://newmexicoindependent.com/48173/ethics-transparency-legislation-dies-on-the-senate-floor
NEW YORK The Governor signed legislation that makes it illegal for state officials to use public resources for their private gain or any non-governmental purpose. The law is being publicized as filling the “Bruno gap,” a reference to the actions taken by the former Senate Majority leader that ultimately led to a federal fraud conviction. The Governor has also proposed a “compromise bill” in order to make another attempt at ethics reform. Legislative leaders say the Governor has not contacted them to discuss or negotiate any elements of the bill, although his office has been in contact with staff.
Pressconnects.com. February 19, 2010. http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20100219/VIEWPOINTS01/2190310/1120/Small-step-for-ethics
Legislative Gazette. February 22, 2010. http://www.legislativegazette.com/Articles-c-2010-02-22-65617.113122_Not_looking_good_for_ethics_compromise.html
NORTH CAROLINA An ongoing criminal investigation against former Governor Easley is stirring talk of more legislative ethics reform. The charges listed in the indictment against a former Easley aide are for actions that are already illegal, however the Senate Majority Leader stated that the situation provides pressure for action, saying, “we owe it to (the people) to give them an honest effort.” A working group of Senate democrats has been formed to discuss what considerations should be made during the upcoming session. Three passed House bills already await the Senate Judiciary Committee – they would place a six month waiting period on certain executive branch officials from lobbying, ban campaign contributions from vendors whose contracts are approved by the candidate, and implements new campaign disclosure requirements.
The Daily Reflector. February 14, 2010. http://www.reflector.com/state-news/nc-lawmakers-prepare-new-clean-government-changes-23511
OHIO The state supreme court overturned Ohio’s legislative revolving door law, which placed a one year waiting period on former legislators and legislative staff who would be lobbyists. The court ruled that the state’s defense lawyers “have not articulated or presented evidence to establish that the temporally limited restriction adequately addresses the concern against quid pro quo corruption.” The chief justice criticized the law for burdening First Amendment rights, for being over-inclusive (in that it pertains to volunteer lobbying) and under-inclusive (in that it does not restrict gifts, employment offers or other potential corruption-inducing activities). The ruling did not address the state’s similar revolving door ban on former executive branch officials.
Columbus Dispatch. February 18, 2010. http://www.dispatchpolitics.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2010/02/18/copy/Revolving_Door.ART_ART_02-18-10_B1_2UGKFRO.html?adsec=politics&sid=101
OREGON The House passed a bill that would require former legislators to wait one year before seeking or accepting non-elected positions in the executive branch. HB 3638 now moves to the Senate.
Oregon Catalyst. February 17, 2010. http://oregoncatalyst.com/index.php?archives/3072-House-passes-bill-to-close-lawmaker-job-jump.html&print=1
UTAH The Senate will now take up House ethics bills, after several closed caucus discussions where the bills were discussed and studied. The House Minority Leader has said that “a few tweaks will be made,” most notably an amendment to the proposed lobbyist gift ban, to allow lawmakers to participate in lobbyist-funded trips, as long as the costs are disclosed.
Deseret News. February 19, 2010. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700010467/Utah-Legislature-Senate-ready-to-move-on-ethics-package.html
EDITORIAL: House’s ethics reform efforts laudable.
Deseret News. February 19, 2010. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700010497/Houses-ethics-reform-efforts-laudable.html
OPINION: Keep ethics panel out of shadows.
Salt Lake Tribune. February 19, 2010. http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_14435959
VIRGINIA A special bipartisan House ethics subcommittee approved conflict of interest provisions for members. The changes would require that legislative ethics investigations continue, irrespective of whether or not the member resigns and that ethics panel proceedings be made public once there is “reasonable belief that a violation occurred.” Finally, the bill requires legislators to disclose any income received from state or local governmental entities.
HamptonRoads.com. February 10, 2010. http://hamptonroads.com/2010/02/house-panel-agrees-changes-ethics-rules
WASHINGTON The state ethics commission dismissed a complaint against several Senate and House members who attended an event where the ACLU provided free lunches to legislators. The participants checked with legislative counsel to ensure that such actions were allowable, but the Senate and House administrators are nonetheless requiring that the members and staff repay the state a portion of their per diem due to the complaint.
The Olympian. February 6, 2010. http://www.theolympian.com/2010/02/06/1128089/some-lawmakers-penalized-for-pot.html
WEST VIRGINIA The Senate Confirmations Committee has determined that many people serving on state boards and commissions, including seven members of the state ethics commission, have expired terms. Three additional seats on the commission are vacant. A Senate bill has been proposed that would ban boards or commissions from taking official actions unless a quorum of members serving unexpired terms is present.
Charleston Gazette. February 21, 2010. http://sundaygazettemail.com/News/201002210412
INDIANA The Senate is considering a change to financial disclosure reports that would require universities to report on lobbying activities under the comprehensive Senate ethics bill. State universities have expressed a desire for clarity in the law and have mentioned that as state employees, they are different than private sector lobbyists. Peggy Kerns of the NCSL Ethics Center stated that “disclosure of gifts and tickets is the minimum the public should expect.” She added that it is of utmost importance that legislators remember that there is public perception that gifts influence votes, and that the body must take steps to mitigate that perception.
Indianapolis Star. January 24, 2010. http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=20101240356&template=printart
EDITORIAL: Real ethics reform within reach. The first month of the year’s session produced remarkable progress on legislative ethics reform in both the House and Senate. Both chamber passed different versions of ethics reform, and the bills will likely be reconciled in the coming days.
Indianapolis Star. February 5, 2010. http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100205/OPINION08/2050331/1291/OPINION08/Real-ethics-reform-within-reach&template=printart
NEW MEXICO Bills that would prohibit lobbyists from making campaign contributions are still alive in New Mexico, although the short length of this year’s session could make it difficult to enact legislation.
The New Mexican. February 2, 2010. http://www.pntonline.com/news/mexico-19884-action-new.html
NEW YORK The legislature passed a host of changes to state ethics laws – including amending disclosure requirements, campaign finance reporting and increased oversight responsibility for legislative and executive branch ethics commissions- with nearly unanimous support. The Governor subsequently vetoed the bill, claiming it to be “election-year window dressing.” In defense of his veto, the Governor claimed that the legislation did not go far enough in addressing the state’s ethical problems and that his own reform proposals should instead become law. Governor Patterson has proposed a single, independent ethics commission for both the legislative and executive branches of government and other changes such as public financing for elections and term limits. A vote to override the veto passed in the Assembly but failed in the Senate, leading many to lay blame on partisanship.
Albany Times Union. January 21, 2010. http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/storyprint.asp?StoryID=891370
Albany Times Union. February 2, 2010. http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/22183/paterson-vetoes-legislatures-ethics-bill-goo-goos-unhappy/
New York Times. February 8, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/09/nyregion/09ethics.html
PENNSYLVANIA The Senate is examining changes to chamber rules that would implement a code of conduct for legislators and staff, ban political work on state time, prohibit members from requiring staff to conduct campaign work or contribute, and outline a process to file and pursue complaints. The executive director of the state ethics commission implied that most of the Senate’s proposals are already covered by state law. The issue of staff and political activity has been a prevalent topic in Pennsylvania due to the indictments and corruption trial of former staff and legislators in the House.
ABC27 News. February 4, 2010. http://cfc.whtm.com/printstory.cfm?id=702846
Philadelphia Inquirer, Harrisburg Bureau. February 4, 2010. http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/83523362.html
The Times Tribune. February 4, 2010. http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/senators-urged-to-create-new-ethics-law-1.595682
RHODE ISLAND The House Majority Leader introduced a bill to fold the legislature back into the jurisdiction of the state ethics commission. A recent state supreme court decision removed the body from the commission’s oversight.
Providence Journal. February 5, 2010. http://www.projo.com/news/content/fox_ethics_legislation_02-05-10_IRHBK1D_v13.39858b4.html
UTAH The House approved a constitutional amendment to create a state ethics commission, although the details of the commission’s operations would be determined by the legislature. The amendment’s supporters feel that by establishing the commission in the constitution, it will “enshrines” it forever, and makes it impossible for the legislature to abolish or repeal it without a public vote. The House also passed five other bills that deal with a lobbyist gift bans and disclosure of conflicts of interest. The Speaker mentioned during the course of debate that legislators will study an expansion and rewrite of ethics rules during the interim. Good government groups are still gathering signatures for a proposed constitutional amendment that would create an independent commission.
Deseret News. February 4, 2010. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700007168/House-approves-ethics-reform-bills.html
VIRGINIA OPINION: Let the public in on ethics probes. House Democratic leaders have introduced a bill aimed at creating a bipartisan ethics panel for both chambers.
The Amherst New Era-Progress. February 3, 2010. http://www2.neweraprogress.com/nep/news/opinion/article/let_the_public_in_on_ethics_probes/23759
WEST VIRGINIA A House bill proposes to institute a one-year revolving door provision on public officials and staff. HB 4016, which passed the House unanimously, also contains campaign finance disclosure provisions. Peggy Kerns of the NCSL Ethics Center commented that revolving door laws are increasingly introduced in those states where such laws do not already exist.
WBOY TV. January 21, 2010. http://www.wboy.com/story.cfm?func=viewstory&storyid=73779&printview=1
ALASKA Two ethics bills have been filed for the 2010 session. The first would require the state to pay attorney’s fees for governors accused of ethics violations. The second would keep confidential ethics complaints against the executive branch until there are found to have merit.
KTUU. January 16, 2010. http://www.ktuu.com/Global/story.asp?S=11835580
GEORGIA Editorial: Campaign funds should be the focus of ethics reform. The Athens Banner-Herald discusses proposed legislative changes to state ethics laws.
Athens Banner-Herald. January 17, 2010. http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/011710/opi_550574412.shtml
INDIANA The House cleared legislation that would impose a one-year revolving door provision on former legislators who would be lobbyists. The measure also reduces the gift threshold on which lobbyists must report. An amendment would also require legislators to undergo ethics trainings upon election. In the Senate, a committee passed a bill that would institute the same revolving door provision, require legislators to report on gifts, and expand the definition of who must report on lobbying activities.
Courier Press. January 12, 2009. http://www.courierpress.com/news/2010/jan/12/speaker-lobbyist-restrictionsa-public-confidence/
Opinion: Ethics reform must include redistricting.
Star Press. January 19, 2010. http://www.thestarpress.com/article/20100119/OPINION/1190318
MISSOURI The House Majority Leader has proposed legislation that would forbid lobbyist gift giving, including meals, to legislators. This article explores the impact of lobbyist gift giving, both on legislators and lobbyists, and the public perception it creates.
St. Louis Today. January 19, 2010. http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/emaf.nsf/Popup?ReadForm&db=stltoday%5Cnews%5Ccolumnists.nsf&docid=A534BBD25995E3BF862576B0000EF368
NEW MEXICO Legislators pre-filed ethics bills for 2010, and good government groups are promoting the changes. Statewide officials have likewise expressed support for reforms. Among the proposed changes are the creation of an ethics commission, a pay to play limitation on state contractors, public financing for campaigns, and increased transparency for budgets and certain campaign contributions.
The Santa Fe New Mexican. January 16, 2010. http://www.cnjonline.com/news/legislative-36715-advocates-most.html
NEW YORK The legislature reached an agreement on a bill that would tighten financial disclosure requirements and create separate entities to oversee ethics issues for the legislature, lobbyists, and the executive branch. The oversight proposal is similar to the entities that were in place prior to 2007 reforms. Under the proposal, the Commission on Public Integrity would be split into two bodies - one to oversee lobbying, the other with authority over executive agency employees. The legislative ethics commission would also be split into a body charged with oversight and another charged with investigatory powers. The bill’s passage is thought to be assured in the Assembly, but the partisan make-up in the Senate could affect its progress in the chamber. The Governor has proposed a separate, more comprehensive reform package and does not support the legislature’s bill. Good government groups offered mixed feelings.
Albany Times Union. January 14, 2010. http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/storyprint.asp?StoryID=888546
Legislative Gazette. January 19, 2020. http://www.legislativegazette.com/Articles-c-2010-01-19-64865.113122_Lawmakers_unveil_sweepingethics_campaign_reform_plan.html
Meanwhile, in the Senate, a special committee voted to recommend that the full body censure or expel a Democrat convicted of assault charges. His expulsion would be the Senate’s first since the 1920’s and would give the chamber a partisan split of 31-30. The Senator has vowed to fight expulsion and legal experts are divided on such a motion. State law provides the legislature with the ability to remove members, but the state’s constitution does not.
New York Times. January 15, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/15/nyregion/15hiram.html?adxnnl=1&ref=todayspaper&adxnnlx=1263560569-oPdkxif/EvHqrgu7b+Mx4Q
Albany Times Union. January 15, 2010. http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/storyprint.asp?StoryID=888900
OREGON Editorial: Don’t weld shut the revolving door. The Oregonian weighs in on a legislative proposal to bar former legislators from working for a state agency until the end of the next legislative session.
The Oregonian. January 18, 2010. http://blog.oregonlive.com/opinion_impact/print.html?entry=/2010/01/dont_weld_shut_the_revolving_d.html
PENNSYLVANIA Editorial: Pennsylvania Legislature must restore the public’s shaken confidence.
The Morning Call. January 19, 2010. http://www.mcall.com/news/opinion/anotherview/all-yv_madonna-young0113.7145927jan19,0,5840576,print.story
RHODE ISLAND The Senate Rules Committee is examining a proposal that would let the chamber adopt conflict of interest rules and deal with internal ethics violations. The proposal is in response to a state Supreme Court decision that ruled the state ethics commission did not have the authority to prosecute legislators on core legislative functions. The House Majority Leader has promised to introduce legislation to address the issue, and Common Cause is proposing a voter initiative that would reinstate the commissions’ authority over members.
Providence Journal. January 18, 2010. http://www.projo.com/generalassembly/POLITICAL_SCENE_18_01-18-10_HNH4IEM_v56.3616b70.html
UTAH Signatures are still being gathered by ethics commission initiative supporters. A recent media poll found that two-thirds of Utahans are in favor of the creation of a commission. Legislative leaders have promised to adopt new ethics laws in the 2010 session, and an interim committee approved a bill that would form an independent commission.
Deseret News. January 17, 2010. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705359268/Poll-shows-support-for-2-citizen-initiatives.html
TEXAS Ethics is popping up in the gubernatorial race. Kay Bailey Hutchinson is proposing a transparency plan for state government. Among her proposals is a revolving door ban on former staff for the governor and a limit on food and beverages given by lobbyists to legislators.
The Texas Tribune. January 19, 2010. http://www.texastribune.org/stories/2010/jan/19/transparent-warring/
WEST VIRGINIA The House is considering a revolving door provision for former state employees who want to lobby the legislature.
WVmetronews.com. January 15, 2010. http://www.wvmetronews.com/index.cfm?func=displayfullstory&storyid=34667
FLORIDA OPINION: The answer to Florida’s corruption crisis can be found in a stronger and more vigilant Florida Commission on Ethics.
TCPalm. January 2, 2010. http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2010/jan/02/latour-lafferty-put-more-bite-into-floridas-laws/
INDIANA EDITORIAL: “Cooling off period” for lawmakers would help the legislative process.
Indianapolis Star. January 3, 2010. http://www.thestarpress.com/article/20100103/OPINION/1030316
MARYLAND EDITORIAL: Leaders in Annapolis could endear themselves to voters in an election year by making the workings of state government more open and accountable. The Baltimore Sun suggests webcasting debates, providing easier access to voting records and financial disclosures.
Baltimore Sun. January 3, 2010. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bal-ed.transparency03jan03,0,6856381.story
MISSOURI Legislative leaders in both chambers stressed ethics reform in their open session speeches. The House Speaker announced the creation of a special committee on government accountability and ethics reform.
Kansas City Star. January 6, 2010. http://www.kansascity.com/115/story/1668578.html
The Governor outlined a plan for “four pillars of ethics reform” for the upcoming legislative session. Along with campaign contribution limits, he called for limits on contributions to PACs, a prohibition on lawmakers hiring other legislators as campaign consultants and a revolving door prohibition on legislators becoming lobbyists. Fourteen bills have already been pre-filed for the 2010 legislative session.
Southeast Missourian. December 31, 2009. http://www.semissourian.com/story/1598682.html
NEW YORK The Commission on Public Integrity provided guidance on attendance at legislative receptions, noting that fines for violating the law will be higher than in previous years. The laws governing lobbyist gift giving and public officials receiving gifts changed in 2007 but provide some exceptions, in particular if legislators are present at “widely attended” events.
North Country Gazette. January 5, 2010. http://www.northcountrygazette.org/2010/01/05/gift_ba/
The Governor laid out his plan for ethics reforms during his 2010 State of the State address. The “sweeping” legislation would create a new ethics commission, require disclosure of outside relationships and clients, give the AG investigatory authority over corruption cases, set legislator and statewide officer term limits, ban certain campaign contributions, and strip pensions from public officials convicted of a felony.
New York Post. January 6, 2010. http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/gov_bids_to_expose_lawyer_pols_ecrets_tKr9BJdmvVleAWgaR4k8yO
New York Times. January 7, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/07/nyregion/07state.html?ref=todayspaper
The Assembly and Senate are negotiating an ethics bill. The Speaker was quoted as saying he likes the Governor’s ideas on campaign finance but that the issue of client disclosure is complicated, especially as it relates to attorney-client privilege.
New York Observer. January 6, 2010. http://www.observer.com/2010/politics/silver-likes-some-reforms-not-others-will-work-his-own-bill
OREGON The state Supreme Court ruled on a 2007 gift ban law that institutes a $50 limit on what lobbyists can offer public officials. The Court found that limiting lobbyist gift giving violates the freedom of expression clause in the state constitution, but stressed a difference between gift giving and campaign contributions. The Court upheld the piece of the law that restricts officials from receiving gifts.
Statesman Journal. January 1, 2010. http://www.statesmanjournal.com/print/article/20100101/LEGISLATURE/1010332/Oregon-s-high-court-upholds-intent-of-ethics-law
PENNSYLVANIA. Seven former House staff members pleaded guilty to using state funds and resources for campaign work. The charges could translate to prison time for some and others risk losing their state pensions, in addition to other penalties. The Attorney General has filed criminal charges against 25 former and present legislators and staff in both caucuses.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. January 7, 2010. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/state/s_660943.html