Ethics in the News 2017

12/9/2017

ETHICSEthics in the News is a monthly summary of ethics and lobbying-related articles during 2017, compiled by NCSL's Center for Ethics in Government.

Note: The links to these articles are provided for information purposes only. NCSL does not endorse any views these news stories provide. Links more than two weeks old may no longer be active. If you are interested in reading an article whose link is inactive, please contact the newspaper in which the story was published.

December

Kentucky -  Kentucky’s ethics laws, passed in 2014, which states a member of the legislature can take nothing of value from a lobbyist, has been struck down as unconstitutional.  View story.

Today, Reps. Ken Fleming, R-Louisville, and Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, filed a bill to create the Legislative Tip Line to confidentially report wrongdoing within the legislature, including harassment, discrimination, ethical or official misconduct, theft, and fraud.  View story.

November

Federal - Walter Shaub said he felt almost powerless as head of the Office of Government Ethics to serve as a check on President Donald Trump’s administration, but he's pushing Congress to empower his successors.  View story.

Illinois - In the wake of a sexual harassment and ethics scandal that has rocked the Capitol in Springfield, Republican lawmakers from both chambers are calling for a complete overhaul of the legislative ethics review system.  At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Reps. Grant Wehrli, Keith Wheeler and Mark Batinick introduced legislation they say will help fix a broken system that holds no one accountable.  View story.

Louisiana - The members of an advisory committee reviewing Louisiana’s ethics laws sound optimistic, some even confident, that significant policy changes will be recommended to the Legislature—maybe even in time for the regular session that begins March 12.  View story.

New Hampshire - A state lawmaker wants to give employees who work at the New Hampshire Statehouse the same protections afforded to their counterparts in other public sector jobs across the state.  View story.

New Mexico - A former New Mexico state senator was convicted Thursday of fraud, bribery and felony ethical violations in a corruption trial over accusations he used his position as a lawmaker to profit from the sale of a state-owned building.  View story.

October

New York - The appellate ruling that overturned the conviction of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is the fifth time that an Albany legislative leader has been victorious after indictment by prosecutors.  View story.

Vermont - The five-member State Ethics Commission picked an ethics consultant from Stowe as its chair at the panel's first meeting Wednesday.  View story.

September

Federal - The consensus was clear at a discussion by ethics experts at the Texas Tribune festival on Saturday: Donald Trump's White House may be the most unethical administration Americans have ever seen.  View story.

Alaska - Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson of North Pole has been accused of an ethics violation by the Legislative Ethics Committee.  View story.

Guam - Speaker Benjamin Cruz is now consulting with the 34th Guam Legislature's legal counsel on how to proceed with the Espaldon ethics case.  View story.

Republican Sen. James Espaldon isn't the first lawmaker to be the subject of an ethics complaint, but it's been nearly a decade since the Legislature's Committee on Ethics and Standards has been asked to investigate one.  View story.

Sen. James Espaldon will be censured, removed only from leadership positions in the Guam Legislature and required to undergo a 16-hour refresher course on ethics, a legislative ethics panel recommended yesterday.  The panel did find Espaldon broke the rule that he must "bring honor" to the public office, but it didn't recommend that he step down as senator.  View story.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday took exception to the "relentless" filing of ethics complaints against a number of senators, saying it has cheapened the discipline process in the legislative chamber.  View story.

Idaho - Idaho's top politicians should face term limits and tougher disclosure laws, political newcomer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tommy Ahlquist announced Tuesday as part of his 10-point plan on ethics reforms.  View story.

Kentucky -  Former state Rep. John Arnold resigned from his seat in the state House of Representatives in September of 2013, but an issue raised against him by the Legislative Ethics Commission after his resignation is the major impetus for a bill that will be considered by the 2018 General Assembly.  View story.

When former state Rep. John Arnold was found guilty of three ethics violations in a sexual harassment case in May 2014, he argued that the Legislative Ethics Commission had no authority to discipline him because he already had left the lawmaking body.  View story.


Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/news/politics-government/article171808927.html#storylink=cpy

Wisconsin - Government watchdog groups are calling into question the effectiveness of the newly formed Wisconsin Ethics Commission.  The new entity was created a year ago to replace the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.  View story.

 


Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/news/local/crime/article170695832.html#storylink=cpy

July

Federal - Walter Shaub stepped down as the head of the Office of Government Ethics, but his footing is still firmly in federal accountability.  View story.

Walter Shaub, the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics who has criticized the way President Donald Trump has handled his business conflicts, announced on Thursday that he is resigning, effective July 19.  View story.

More than 200 years ago, James Madison posed a powerful and prescient rhetorical question: “What is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?”  View story.

Alabama - The state of Alabama has filed its blistering response to former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s legal appeal, downplaying Hubbard’s claims that his conviction should be overturned.  View story.

Guam - The Legislature's ethics committee met in a closed-door meeting Monday morning to discuss an ethics complaint against Sen. James Espaldon.  View story.

The Guam legislative committee on ethics and standards will launch a full investigation into a complaint against Sen. James Espaldon for facilitating a $11.5 million generator deal which the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., or CUC, has since unplugged.  View story.

New York - A federal appeals court on Thursday overturned the 2015 corruption conviction of Sheldon Silver, once the powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly, saying the judge’s jury instructions were in error in light of a United States Supreme Court decision that has since narrowed the legal definition of corruption.  View story.

The overturning of ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon’s corruption conviction has sparked new calls for tougher ethics laws — but no rush to action.  View story.

When former Sen. Matt Rector resigned from his post as lawmaker in 2010, he did so before the legislative Committee on Ethics and Standards, which held a public hearing into his alleged failure to disclose his criminal record.   View story.

The chaotic final days of the 2017 legislative session failed to address new ethics legislation and killed a procurement reform measure prompted by a federal probe into allegations of bid-rigging and influence-peddling in some of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s biggest economic development projects.  View story.

Vermont - Thanks to legislative action this year in Vermont, Idaho is now one of just two states in the nation with no requirements for personal financial disclosure by state lawmakers or other elected or appointed officials. Idaho had been one of three states with that distinction. Now it’s just Idaho and Michigan.  View story.

June

Federal - The White House disclosed Wednesday evening that it has granted ethics waivers to 17 appointees who work for President Trump and Vice President Pence, including four former lobbyists.  View story.

Guam - It has been about 21 years since the enactment of a law establishing an ethics commission on Guam, but the group has never been impaneled.  Now, amid inquiries into some senatorial actions, the former chairwoman of the senate ethics committee that oversaw the investigation into former Sen. Matt Rector is seeking for the commission to be established.  View story.

Idaho - When the Legislative Council, the governing group of Idaho’s legislature outside of legislative sessions, met on Friday, it agreed to the formation of a 10-member interim working group to study ethics and campaign finance laws in Idaho and recommend changes to next year’s Legislature, as proposed by Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, and House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley.  View story.

Kentucky -  A Kentucky ethics commission says it will appeal a federal judge’s order allowing lobbyists to donate to political campaigns.  View story.

Kentucky's largest and most influential lobbyist organization says it opposes a judge's ruling allowing lobbyists to give money to political candidates.  View story.

A federal judge has struck down part of Kentucky’s legislative ethics code, ruling that state lawmakers can accept gifts from lobbyists and that lobbyists can make campaign contributions to candidates for the state legislature.  View story.


Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/news/politics-government/article154829249.html#storylink=cpy

More than $8.6 million was spent on lobbying in the first four months of 2017, including a 30-day legislative session. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce spent $158,306, which is six percent more than the Chamber has ever spent in a comparable period, including in even-numbered years with 60-day sessions. View story.

Massachusetts - The task force set up by the Legislature to review state ethics laws is expected to throw its support behind granting the State Ethics Commission full regulatory authority and will hand its work off to legislative committees to consider further changes to the ethics laws.  View story.

New Mexico - A grand jury has charged a former New Mexico state senator with perjury, fraud and embezzlement in connection with campaign finance activities, as the prominent Democrat awaits trial in a corruption probe.  View story.


Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/politics-government/national-politics/article157090009.html#storylink=cpy

New Mexico lawmakers approved the creation of an independent ethics commission during this year’s legislative session, but there’s still much unsettled about how the body would function – even if it’s approved by statewide voters next year.   View story.

New York - Since June 2009, the New York Senate’s Ethics and Internal Governance had not held a single public hearing. During that time, leaders of the chamber – both Democrat and Republican – were toppled by corruption charges, as were number of rank-and-file members of the body.  That streak was broken on Thursday morning, when the Ethics Committee’s chair from the majority Senate Republicans, Long Island Sen. Elaine Phillips, held a committee meeting in a small, crowded hearing room on the eighth floor of the Legislative Office Building.  View story.

Texas - It wasn’t the sweeping ethics reform that the watchdogs had in mind.  But almost four years after Gov. Greg Abbott began prodding the Legislature to better police its own conduct and shed more light on conflicts of interest, state lawmakers finally sent him a few bills accomplishing just that. Elected officials who commit felonies while abusing their office will lose their public pensions. State officers and politicians who make money from government contracts will finally have to reveal their relationships. And lawmakers who leave the Legislature with fat campaign accounts will be restricted from using the cash to prop themselves up as lobbyists. View story.

May

Georgia - Officials across metro Atlanta are worried they’ll be forced to dismantle local ethics boards that investigate government misbehavior after a judge ruled last week that the way DeKalb County’s panel is chosen is unconstitutional. View story.

Guam - The Legislative Ethics Committee met for the first time today. Members adopted the policies and procedures when receiving and investigating any complaints sent their way. The procedures will be forwarded to the committee on rules to be adopted into the standing rules. View story.

Illinois - The Chicago Board of Ethics is declining to follow a recommendation by City Hall's top watchdog that public officials be required to report every time a lobbyist contacts them, according to an inspector general's report issued Tuesday. The disclosure comes as the ethics panel's role has become more relevant following the release of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's personal emails that the Chicago Tribune found revealed dozens of potential violations of the city's lobbying law. View story.

Maine - Retail sales of marijuana may still be a year away, but cannabis-related cash is already flowing at the Maine State House as businesses jockey to influence the policies that will govern the lucrative recreational market. Between Dec. 1 and March 31, clients paid lobbyists more than $140,000 for representation on marijuana-related issues in Augusta even though lawmakers have only taken up a handful of the roughly 50 bills connected to the drug. View story.

Rhode Island - The Rhode Island Ethics Commission on Tuesday advised former Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed that the state’s revolving door law bars her from lobbying the General Assembly for one year in her new job as president of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island. But Paiva Weed, a close political ally of Governor Gina Raimondo, is free to represent her new employer “before any municipality or the executive or judicial branches of Rhode Island government,” the commission noted in its advisory opinion. View story.

Texas - It appears Gov. Greg Abbott will get half of the "ethics reform" package that he wanted the Legislature to pass, key lawmakers said Monday. Two of the bills likely died late Sunday when a deadline passed for a powerful House committee that sets the daily agenda. Those bills prevented lobbyists from concealing which legislators they wine and dine and made it a crime for ex-legislators who become lobbyists to pass on "official information" for two years after they leave office. That provision replaced an outright ban on lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for a two-year legislative cycle after leaving office. View story.

Vermont - The Vermont House has given its approval to legislation that creates an ethics commission to investigate ethics complains about state officials. Backers of the legislation say the commission is needed because Vermont is one of the few states in the country that doesn't have such a panel in place.The legislation creates a five-member commission that would review allegations of ethics violations. Formal complaints would be sent to the attorney general's office for further investigation. View story.

April

Alabama - Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) will resign late Monday after reaching an agreement with lawmakers and state law enforcement officials in the wake of an ongoing ethics probe looking into his personal relationship with a senior political adviser, according to a source familiar with the discussions and several local media outlets.  View story.

Facing the possible end of his political career and potential criminal charges, Gov. Robert Bentley went to God Friday. His attorneys went to court.  In his first public statement since the Alabama Ethics Commission found evidence Bentley violated ethics and campaign finance laws -- and hours before the expected release of a report beginning hearings on his impeachment -- Bentley said he had faced major struggles in the past year, and asked Alabamians to "please forgive me."  View story.

Florida - A major ethics package backed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran is dead for the session after the Senate refused to consider the legislation, House leaders said Tuesday. The measures included an effort (HJR 7001) to extend a lobbying ban on lawmakers from the current two years to six years after they leave office and a bill (HB 7021) that would have strengthened lobbying and disclosure rules for local governments and officials.View story.

Florida's ethics arbiters claimed their "independence" Friday in response to a legislative directive that put more restrictions on their operations, from out-of-state travel spending to the hiring and firing of staff. The Florida Commission on Ethics agreed in a toned-down resolution to "respectfully" decline the latest "delegation of authority" directive that imposes House and Senate oversight on operations at the legislative-branch agency. View story.

Guam - If members of the public want to file a formal complaint involving a senator or staffer with the legislative ethics committee, they now have a specific person to go to.  View story.

The 34th Guam Legislature has a newly created ethics and standards committee that can look into ethics issues that may be filed against a senator or senatorial staffer.  As of last weekend, the committee hadn't received an ethics complaint.  View story.

Kentucky - Although the General Assembly was in session for just 20 days, $4.6 million was spent on lobbying in the first two months of the 2017 short session. Once again, the top spending lobbying organization was the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which spent $88,090, 19 percent more than the Chamber spent in the same period in last year’s long session. View story.

Out-of-state groups pushing for charter schools joined the traditional Kentucky big business and other interests this year on the list of organizations that spent the most lobbying the Kentucky General Assembly. View story.

About 720 groups — associations, corporations, labor unions, non-profits, etc. — reported spending about $6.6 million to influence the legislature during the 2017 legislative session, according to reports filed this week with the Legislative Ethics Commission.

Maine - The executive director of Maine's ethics commission wants to prohibit all compensated lobbying by former lawmakers in their first year after public service. The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices are set to discuss on Tuesday possible legislation to close the "revolving door" from legislative work to lobbying. View story.

Maryland - The Maryland House of Delegates on Saturday gave final approval to a bill designed to strengthen the state’s ethics laws, sending the measure to Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who proposed the plan as part of his legislative agenda this year.  View story.

Gov. Larry Hogan signed an ethics reform bill Tuesday, after ethics and criminal investigations bedeviled state lawmakers from the start of the legislative session until its end. Hogan, a Republican, called it "the first meaningful ethics reform in 15 years" during a bill signing ceremony Tuesday. View story.

Michigan - Legislation introduced by three state House Democrats this week would beef up Michigan ethics laws, marking a state effort in line with proposed federal legislation to increase transparency in state government. State Reps. Darrin Camilleri, D-Bronstown Twp., Abdullah Hammoud, D-Dearborn, and Tim Sneller, D-Burton, introduced a three-bill package this week that would require state agencies to publish information on contracts paid with public funds, require state representatives and senators to disclose tax returns upon winning elections and adding employees of the Legislature to the law prohibiting state and local government employees from being required to make political contributions to a person or organization. View story.

Missouri - As it stands, Missouri law permits lawmakers to accept gifts like trips, meals and tickets to ball games from lobbyists. And there’s no limit on how much a lobbyist can spend on an elected official.  Governor Eric Greitens has said he’d like to ban lobbyist gifts, but with only a month left in this year’s legislative session, that’s unlikely to happen this year. View story.

New Jersey - The New Jersey State Bar Association hosted its annual Town Hall Advocacy program in Trenton recently, offering effective communication techniques and an update on legislative priorities in Trenton by legislators and lobbyists. . . . The program concluded with an ethics discussion from Steven Sholk, a partner at Gibbons P.C., and Rebecca Moll Freed, a partner at Genova Burns. Moderated by staffer, lobbyist and campaign operative William Caruso, of counsel at Archer & Greiner P.C., the panel offered practical implications of the Rules of Professional Conduct and lobbying ethics by offering an analysis of real-life scenarios from recently decided cases. View story.

New York - The New York State budget is out, and citizens concerned with ethics reform are dissatisfied. Gov. Andrew Cuomo put forth a comprehensive package addressing campaign finance regulations and increased government ethics concerns in the 2018 state executive budget, but the state’s final budget, released earlier this month, did not allocate these funds. View story.

Oregon - House Bill 2577, which would make it mandatory for lobbyists to disclose their influence and involvement on state legislation, passed 52 to three in the Oregon House on April 6 and is scheduled for a first reading in the Senate on April 10. If passed, the bill will require lobbyist to disclose any bills “they are lobbying and whether they are working in favor, in opposition or have requested amendments” and any “legislative topic” lobbied for that is not a bill, according to an Oregon House majority press release. View story.

Pennsylvania - One of Pennsylvania’s leading environmental organizations is being fined by the state ethics commission for failing to file a quarterly lobbying expense report on time. PennEnvironment has 30 days to pay the $1,960 fine over its delinquent quarterly expense report from the second quarter of 2016. The group also has to pay $250 to cover costs the ethics commission incurred investigating the matter. View story.

South Dakota - Supporters of a voter-imposed government ethics initiative repealed just months after it passed plan to return to the ballot in 2018 with an anti-corruption constitutional amendment, the sponsoring group said Thursday in a rebuke of Republican lawmakers who scrubbed the initiative from law.  View story.

Texas - A major pillar of Texas ethics reform — stopping politicians from immediately becoming lobbyists when they leave office — appears to be crumbling in the final weeks of the 2017 legislative session. The author of the “revolving door” bill in the Texas House, Fort Worth Republican Charlie Geren, said he stripped out a provision imposing a two-year “cooling-off period” on state lawmakers who want to become registered lobbyists for special interests when they leave office. View story.

Vermont - A House panel has delayed a vote on a bill that would create an independent body to take in ethics complaints about state officials, but Republican Gov. Phil Scott said he would sign whatever the House sends to his desk. "I've said that we need an ethics bill, so I'm fine with it, whatever they come up with," Scott said Thursday. View story.

Virginia - Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie says he would back a series of measures aimed at strengthening Virginia's ethics law if elected, including legislation to ban personal use of campaign funds. Gillespie said at a news conference Thursday that his administration would also extend limits on lobbying by former government officials. He says his experience as a former White House and Congressional aide who also had a lucrative federal lobbying career have informed him where ethics rules need strengthening. View story.

March

Florida - The House gave final passage Thursday to a raft of government ethics reforms, including a proposed constitutional amendment to bar legislators and statewide elected officials from lobbying before any state government body or agency for six years. CS/HJR 7001, approved on 108-4 vote, would extend the existing two-year ban. View story.

Iowa - The Iowa House Ethics Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to issue a letter admonishing Americans for Prosperity lobbyist Drew Klein for failing to register his position on a controversial bill scaling back collective bargaining rights. Iowa law requires lobbyists to "register" their support or opposition to legislation moving through the Capitol in an effort to create transparency. According to the committee, Klein did not officially register his support of House File 291 until after it had already been under discussion. That prompted a complaint from the Iowa Federation of Labor. View story.

Kentucky - Although the General Assembly met for only five days in January to begin the 2017 session, the $2.1 million in lobbying spending broke the spending record for the first month of an odd-year legislative session. This year’s total is a 14 percent increase from the $1.8 million spent in the first month of 2015, the previous odd-year session. View story.

Maine - Lawmakers in Maine voted against an effort to investigate a Democratic legislator's employment for a ballot campaign committee. Assistant House Republican Leader Ellie Espling said the House Ethics Committee should investigate whether Rep. Ryan Tipping's employment violated legislative ethics rules. The House voted 77-64 on Thursday against Espling's motion. View story.

Maryland - The Maryland House of Delegates unanimously passed a bill Friday that would update the state's ethics laws. It would require more disclosure of lawmakers' conflicts of interest and put some new limits on legislators' advocacy for private businesses.  View story.

Baltimore County Del. Dan Morhaim violated the spirit of Maryland's ethics rules when he served as a chief architect of Maryland's medical marijuana industry without fully disclosing his ties to a company seeking licenses to sell the drug, according to a 17-page ethics report. The Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics found Morhaim's conduct was "improper because his actions were contrary to the principles of ethical standards." View story.

New Mexico - A proposed constitutional amendment to create an independent ethics commission in New Mexico picked up endorsements from top legislative leaders on Monday as it moves toward the House floor for a vote. Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf promised to expedite a House vote to ensure time for Senate consideration before the Legislature adjourns March 18, as the House Judiciary Committee unanimously endorsed the plan. Approval by a majority of all lawmakers would put the measure on the statewide ballot in 2018. View story.

After years of resistance, the idea of creating an independent New Mexico ethics commission to look into complaints against elected officials appears headed for the legislative finish line. The proposed constitutional amendment, House Joint Resolution 8, cleared the Senate Rules Committee – a place where previous proposals had been derailed – on a 9-1 vote on Wednesday and now heads to the Senate floor. View story.

The state senate voted 30 to 9 early Thursday afternoon to ask voters next year to enshrine an independent ethics commission in the state constitution. “This is a really big step for us in New Mexico,” Democratic Sen. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces told his colleagues moments before asking his colleagues to support the proposal. “I think it will be healthy for democracy.” View story.

Oregon - Gov. Kate Brown says her new adviser, a recently-retired state lawmaker, cannot lobby lawmakers after all.  This comes after a Eugene newspaper said new adviser Peter Buckley’s work in the Legislature could be hamstrung by a 2007 ethics law that Brown chiefly sponsored.  View story.

South Dakota - Two sets of legislation on government ethics and whistle blower protections won approval Monday from the South Dakota Senate. But the Senate put off action on a third measure that would establish a state government accountability board. Instead Sen. Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg, first wants a fiscal estimate of the possible cost for HB 1076. View story.

February

Alaska - A bill by Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, is taking aim at a campaign finance technique used by members of Congress and by a member of the Alaska House’s coalition leadership. Senate Bill 5 received its first hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee on Tuesday. View story.

Florida - Three Florida lobbying concerns are being reported to Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet for incorrectly tallying their income, the Florida Commission on Ethics said Wednesday. In at least two of the cases, however, the errors were basic accounting mistakes. Lobbyists’ compensation is subject to random audits, some of which are reviewed by the commission. View story.

International - Romania's government on Thursday rejected calls to withdraw a decree that critics say marks a major retreat on anti-corruption reforms, standing its ground as huge nationwide protests entered a third day. View story.

Kentucky - Lobbying spending in Kentucky hit an all-time high in 2016, as $20.8 million was paid by businesses, organizations, and lobbyists pursuing their interests with the General Assembly. In the largest spending category, $18.7 million was spent last year by employers compensating lobbyists, a 10 percent increase over the $16.8 million in compensation paid in 2014, the previous even-numbered year with a 60-day legislative session. Lobbying continues to be a growth industry, as overall spending is up 11 percent from 2014, and compensation has more than tripled over the past 20 years, up from $6 million in 1996. Meanwhile, the number of lobbying employers has increased by 35 percent — from 448 in 1996 to 694 businesses and organizations registered today. View story.

New Mexico - Last week marked the start of the 12th installment of a long-running debate among New Mexico state lawmakers. In previous years the discussion could be summed up in two questions: Should the Legislature create an independent ethics commission; and, if so, what form should it take? The perennial answer to the first question was “no ethics commission this year,” rendering moot the second as to the shape and form it would take. This year, unlike in previous sessions, however, state lawmakers will be able to debate both questions at once. View story.

Several lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle had pointed questions Thursday about a proposed constitutional amendment that would establish an independent ethics commission in New Mexico.  View story.

New York - The New York State Senate and Assembly approved a constitutional amendment that would reduce and revoke pensions of public officials who are convicted of a felony related to their official duties. Under the State Constitution, passage of an amendment needs a vote in two separate legislative sessions. Monday was the second time legislators gave their approval after giving passage during last year’s session. The amendment will now­ go to a vote during the November election. The push comes after several cases that involved public officials abusing their office and duty. Sheldon Silver, former Assembly speaker, and Dean Skelos, former Senate Republican majority leader, were convicted last year for using their influence in office to generate personal gains. View story.

South Carolina - An Upstate race for a state circuit court judge’s post has raised questions of judicial and legislative ethics about candidates or their family members making campaign contributions to state lawmakers. In state judges’ races, the voters are the 170 state lawmakers, so whoever gives them contributions before they vote is a matter of public interest. In the ongoing race for the state’s 7th Judicial Circuit judgeship, Patrick Knie, husband of judicial candidate Grace Knie, contributed $8,000 to 14 lawmakers last year, according to State Ethics Commission records. Donations ranged from $250 to $1,000. View story.

South Dakota - Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Thursday signed House Bill 1069, effectively repealing a voter-approved campaign finance and ethics law set into statute as Initiated Measure 22. Because the bill contains an emergency clause, it will take effect immediately. That means the law that calls for establishing an independent state ethics commission, setting strict new limits on gifts to lawmakers, and creating publicly financed campaign credits became history in South Dakota. View story.

Top Republicans gave assurances Friday that South Dakota voters would see bills passed this session to replace provisions of a government ethics overhaul that lawmakers dismantled this week. The ethics initiative that voters passed in November's election instituted a public campaign finance system, an ethics commission and tighter campaign finance and lobbying laws. It's "very likely" that several replacement measures will get through, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said the day after he signed a bill overturning the voter-backed anti-corruption law. View story.

A pair of bills meant to impose stricter regulations on lobbyists and public officials easily passed their first legislative tests Monday as state lawmakers weigh measures that would replace provisions of a recently repealed government ethics overhaul. A Senate bill would bar many officials from private lobbying for two years after leaving state government, while a House proposal would put in place a $100 annual limit for gifts that legislators and other public officials could accept from lobbyists. They were unanimously advanced to their full chambers, and Gov. Dennis Daugaard's office indicated support for both bills. Top Republicans have given assurances that voters would see laws passed this session to replace provisions of the voter-approved ethics package that lawmakers dismantled last week. View story.

Texas – Two years after the collapse of an attempted ethics overhaul championed by Gov. Greg Abbott, lawmakers are engaged in a fast-tracked do-over that could yield strikingly different results in the current 2017 legislative session. The absence of a so-called “dark money” provision — a polarizing ingredient that turned ethics reform into a train wreck in 2015 — seems to be clearing a path for a new ethics package that has widespread support among lawmakers and reform advocates in the opening weeks of this year’s session. View story.

The Texas Senate, passing the first bill of the 2017 legislative session, unanimously approved an ethics reform package that watchdogs say will help curb conflicts of interest and shed more light on the private dealings of state elected officials. The fast-tracked legislation, SB 14 by Sen. Van Taylor, now heads to the Texas House. Among other provisions, the bill would take pensions away from elected officials convicted on felony public corruption charges, make retiring lawmakers wait out one full legislative session before becoming lobbyists and require more disclosure of lobbyist wining and dining of state officials. View story.

Vermont – The Vermont Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to legislation that will tweak ethics laws for some government officials and create a statewide ethics commission to review complaints. The measure, S.8, was passed on a voice vote without opposition. It will be up for final approval in the Senate Wednesday. View story.

Washington  – The Legislative Ethics Board has fined Rep. Melanie Stambaugh $5,000, saying that she violated ethics rules by posting state-funded photos and videos to a Facebook page she used during her campaign.  View story.

West Virginia - West Virginia lawmakers are busy passing new bills to strengthen government ethics and whistleblower laws and the penalties for breaking them. Last week, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed its first bills of the 2017 legislative session, including House Bill 2006 and House Bill 2319. H.B. 2006, introduced by House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, would increase penalties for individuals who retaliate against workers who turn over information about wrongdoing or waste at state agencies under the state’s whistleblower law. View story.

January

Federal – The Office of Government Ethics (OGE), the agency within the executive branch that oversees conflict of interest compliance, recently published revised gift rules applicable to executive branch employees that become effective January 1, 2017.  Although most of the revisions were minor, the OGE did make a few notable changes.  Those changes, including a new requirement that agency ethics officials make a written determination before any executive branch employee can attend a “widely attended gathering” (WAG), such as a banquet dinner…. View story.

Florida – The House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to move forward with two bills meant to crack down on state officials who trade on their public posts to join or set up private lobbying practices. The committee approved a proposed constitutional amendment (PCB 17-01) that would extend the two-year ban on former members lobbying the Legislature to six years, along with a bill (PCB 17-02) revising state law in line with the amendment. The measures would extend the lobbying ban for lawmakers, statewide elected officials and appointed state officials to six years, while also extending to six years a ban prohibiting former lawmakers from lobbying the executive branch. View story.

A House committee on Thursday began debate on slowing the "revolving door" that lets lawmakers become lobbyists two years after they leave office. The House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee reviewed a proposed constitutional amendment (PCB 17-01), which, if approved by voters, would extend the two-year ban on lobbying the Legislature to six years. The measure, a priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, also would impose a similar six-year lobbying ban on former statewide elected officials and appointed state officials and also would prohibit lawmakers from lobbying state agencies for six years after they leave the Legislature. View story.

Idaho – Idaho lawmakers underwent a half-day of ethics training Wednesday as part of an ongoing effort by legislative leaders to discourage behavior that damages public confidence in government. "None of us in this room plan on acting unethically," said Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill of Idaho Falls. "Nor do I think we are going to have a problem this year. But I do think we need to be reminded and rededicate ourselves." The Idaho Legislature has held the training every two years since 2013. It's intended primarily for the state's 105 lawmakers, but lobbyists and members of the public also can attend. View story.

Illinois More than 200 new Illinois laws scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1. Here are the new laws governing Ethics, Transparency and Local Government . . . . View story.

Maryland – Gov. Larry Hogan, citing fraud and bribery scandals allegedly involving state and local officials, has proposed broad reforms that target conflicts of interest and corruption. The Republican governor announced his Integrity in Government Initiative Thursday afternoon in front of the State House. Hogan's proposals include barring legislators from pushing legislation that directly benefits their employer or business, and prohibiting executive branch and legislative staff from lobbying for one year after they leave state service. View story.

Missouri  As his first official act since becoming attorney general, Republican Josh Hawley on Tuesday implemented a new ethics policy for his employees that prohibits them from accepting gifts from lobbyists. “I said I would be part of the solution in Jefferson City, not part of the problem. And I said I’d take on the culture of corruption,” Hawley said Tuesday in an interview with The Star. “I think this shows that we’re serious about it. This is the first thing I’ve done in this office.” View story.

Right to work, ethics top issues in 2017 Missouri session. View story.

New Mexico -  Four bills aimed at improving governmental ethics cleared their first House committee Thursday.  Here’s a look at the bills approved by the House State Government, Indian and Veterans’ Affairs Committee:  View story.

State Senator Daniel A. Ivey-Soto pre-filed Senate Bill 72, the Public Accountability Act, which will significantly strengthen ethics enforcement across state and local government.  It creates a venue for the public to bring forward ethical concerns related to the conduct of public officials and the management of public dollars. View story.

State Cabinet secretaries, legislators and public regulation commissioners would be prohibited from acting as paid lobbyists for two years after leaving office under a bill introduced for consideration during the session of the New Mexico Legislature that begins next week. Under House Bill 73, sponsored by Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, a former official would be subject to a misdemeanor charge for serving as a registered lobbyist during the “cooling off” period, and companies would be barred from paying them for such services. View story.

New York – In his sixth and final State of the State Address in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined a plan to limit outside income of lawmakers, create a full-time Legislature, impose term limits for elected officials and make it more difficult for companies to spend unlimited campaign donations on political candidates. “Unfortunately in Albany, there have been a series of breeches of the trust,” said Cuomo, even acknowledging there has been corruption in his own office. “It has happened in the Legislature, both houses. It’s happened in the state Comptroller’s Office. It’s happened in my own office,” the governor said. “We have to do more to restore the public trust.” View story.

After noting that there have been ethics measures passed four years in a row and acknowledging their insufficiency, Cuomo repeated many of his proposed reforms from 2016, including closing the LLC loophole, enacting term limits, and instituting restrictions on outside income for state lawmakers -- all of which have been bucked by the Legislature . . . . View story.

State Senator Daniel A. Ivey-Soto pre-filed Senate Bill 72, the Public Accountability Act, which will significantly strengthen ethics enforcement across state and local government.  It creates a venue for the public to bring forward ethical concerns related to the conduct of public officials and the management of public dollars. View story.

South Dakota – Following the passage of IM22 and related court action, South Dakota legislators are talking about ethics and reforms. The initiated measure, in part, would set up an independent ethics commission, separate from legislative oversight. That measure was challenged in court, and has been suspended for the time being. View story.

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs is proposing a rewrite of South Dakota's campaign finance laws that she said could replace a voter-approved government ethics overhaul Republican lawmakers are expected to repeal during the legislative session that starts Tuesday. The state's chief election officer outlined to The Associated Press the wide-ranging changes, which include creating a campaign finance ethics commission, adding financial disclosure requirements and allowing organizations to contribute directly to candidates, among other provisions. View story.

Texas – A flurry of ethics bills that never reached Gov. Greg Abbott's desk in 2015 were resurrected Wednesday by lawmakers who want to try again to beef up financial disclosures, penalize criminal lawmakers and crack down on lobbyists' gimmicks. Sen. Van Taylor and Rep. Charlie Geren, both North Texas Republicans, are leading the charge and hedging their bets this time. They're each filing large bills in their chambers, along with smaller bills dedicated to specific actions outlined in the larger bills. That scattershot approach increases the likelihood that at least some of the new regulations will touch the governor's pen. View story.

Virginia – Gov. Terry McAuliffe says he’ll be actively promoting measures in this year’s legislative session aimed at strengthening the state’s ethics rules and making it easier to vote, priorities that will likely face a difficult path forward in the GOP-controlled General Assembly. McAuliffe said Tuesday he also supports legislation to ban lawmakers from using their campaign accounts for personal use, calling the move a necessary complement to a $100 gift cap that lawmakers approved earlier in his term. View story.

Washington – Attorney General Bob Ferguson, state Sen. Reuven Carlyle and Rep. Mike Pellicciotti (D-Federal Way) – on the House side – recently reintroduced their government ethics proposal to establish a one-year lobbying prohibition for former high-ranking state officials. The legislation also requires disclosure of where former officials are employed after state service, if they are paid by an entity that does business with or lobbies the state. View story.

A handful of Washington lawmakers, joined in one case by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, are making another push to strengthen the state’s campaign-disclosure and ethics laws. Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, is introducing a pair of bills aimed at increasing transparency in campaign donations. Senate Bill 5108 would bar political-action committees from getting 70 percent or more of their contributions from another single political committee, or a combination of political committees. That proposal aims to limit “nesting doll” practices — where money is shuttled from one generic political committee to another, then to another — that are becoming a source of hard-to-track “gray money” in election campaigns. View story.