Ethics in the News 2018

12/23/2018

ETHICSEthics in the News is a monthly summary of ethics and lobbying-related articles during 2018, 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

Illinois - The Illinois Legislative Ethics Commission has selected a new inspector general – to investigate misconduct and harassment within the Statehouse.  View story.

New York - A Queens assemblywoman who has led efforts to overhaul the Assembly's ethics policies has introduced a series of bills she said will strengthen the state's sexual harassment laws.  View story.

November

Federal Government - A federal ethics agency is telling civil servants to avoid workplace talk about impeachment and #resistance for the next 705 days — until the day after Election Day 2020. View story.

Democrats would use their first month in the House majority to advance sweeping changes to future campaign and ethics laws, requiring the disclosure of shadowy political donors, outlawing the gerrymandering of congressional districts and restoring key enforcement provisions to the Voting Rights Act, top Democratic leaders said on Tuesday.  View story.

Illinois - Legislative Ethics Commission Chairwoman state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, said a new selection process has produced some candidates to take over the inspector's watchdog duties on a more permanent basis.  View story.

Missouri - Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment last week to change state ethics laws and overhaul the way the state’s political maps are drawn. But with the changes scheduled to start going into effect Dec. 6, the initiative could face another round of scrutiny in a courtroom and under the Capitol dome.  View story.

Missouri voters on Tuesday easily approved a higher minimum wage, passed an initiative touting legislative ethics reform but said no to an increase in the state gasoline tax.  The “Clean Missouri” proposal, or Constitutional Amendment 1, will limit lobbyists’ gifts to lawmakers and improve transparency in the General Assembly. View story.

New Mexico - A 40-year push to create an independent ethics commission in New Mexico succeeded Tuesday as voters agreed to amend the state Constitution, according to partial, unofficial election returns.   View story.

North Carolina - Voters will see another question to vote "For," or "Against," a "Constitutional amendment to establish an eight-member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement in the Constitution to administer ethics and elections law."  View story.

North Dakota - Once session begins, there will be some big changes made to how lobbyists and legislators interact.  The Senate Majority and Minority leader have the next 6 weeks to work alongside the governor in choosing the members of the new ethics commission. The new commission is a requirement of measure 1, providing more transparency in where donations come from.  View story.

South Dakota - One of the leaders of the drive for Measure One – the ethics measure, which voters passed – said she’s meeting with representatives of the measure’s opponents, hoping to “smooth things over” after a spirited campaign.  Voters passed the measure in Tuesday’s election.  A number of business groups, lobbying organizations and  the ACLU opposed the measure. View story.

October

California - California ranks second in the nation for anti-corruption laws, according to a new report from nonpartisan corruption watchdog Coalition for Integrity. California shares that second-place designation with Rhode Island; both states fell behind Washington state, which claimed the best score in the 2018 States With Anti-Corruption Measures for Public Officials (S.W.A.M.P.) Index.  View story.

New Mexico - It will be up to New Mexico voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would allow for the creation of an independent ethics commission. The proposal is on the ballot this year after many years of debate in the Legislature over establishing such a panel to address complaints involving state officials, legislative employees, lobbyists and government contractors. View story.

After more than a decade of debate and disagreement – and more than 35 bills falling by the wayside – New Mexico lawmakers finally approved the framework of an independent ethics commission during the 2017 legislative session.  View story.

New Mexico voters will have an opportunity in November to weigh in on whether New Mexico ought to create an independent ethics commission to hold government officials, candidates and contractors accountable when they violate the law. View story. 

North Carolina - Another proposed amendment of six to the state’s Constitution that we will be asked to vote on in this election cycle regards protecting ethics and elections. The question will appear on the ballot as “Constitutional amendment to establish an eight-member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement in the Constitution to administer ethics and elections law.” View story.

The government board that oversees elections in North Carolina is unconstitutional, a panel of judges ruled on Tuesday — just weeks before Election Day in the 2018 midterms, and only a day before the start of early voting throughout the state. View story.

Washington - Washington state may share a name with the nation’s capital, but there’s no big swamp that needs to be drained in the Pacific Northwest — at least, according to a new independent ranking of anti-corruption laws. The Evergreen State topped the inaugural S.W.A.M.P. Index’s list of states with tough corruption laws, impressing analysts from the Coalition for Integrity with the strength of its ethics agency and measures to prevent lobbyists from plying elected officials with gifts. View story.

September

Federal Government - Efforts to boost transparency, ethics and oversight are among House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer’s strategies for restoring Americans’ trust in government if Democrats win the House majority for the next congress. “Our people believe their government is rigged against them. This belief undermines trust in government and impedes our ability to govern,” the Maryland Democrat told a crowd Wednesday.  View story.

Alabama - A commission appointed to help clarify the Alabama ethics law is moving closer to making recommendations to the Legislature. View story.

Kentucky - Kentucky’s Legislative Ethics Commission has unanimously approved several recommendations for the General Assembly to update the state’s legislative ethics law.  The recommendations focus on increasing transparency and effectiveness of the law, and addressing issues that have arisen in recent years.  View story.

Missouri - A ballot measure that would change Missouri's ethics laws and redistricting process will go in front of voters in November, an appeals court panel ruled Friday. And the state Supreme Court confirmed as much Monday in denying an appeal. View story.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says he is considering calling the Legislature into a special session next month. ...The governor's comments came after he was asked whether he was considering calling a special session — potentially to include ethics legislation.  View story.

New Mexico - On the surface, the meeting was congenial as two state lawmakers, legislative staff, attorneys and representatives of civic organizations hammered out the beginnings of draft legislation that would fill out the details of the state’s first independent ethics commission if voters give the go ahead in November.  View story.

North Dakota - With the goal of protecting North Dakota governments from corruption, Measure No.1 has been placed on the November 6 general election ballot as a constitutional amendment.  View story.

Ohio - The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee says lawmakers and their employees cannot accept travel expenses from lobbyists unless those result from participation in a panel, seminar or speaking engagement or were incurred at a meeting of a national organization of which any state agency is a dues paying member.  View story.

Oklahoma - An ethics bill pre-filed Wednesday could close a reporting loophole that allowed groups, including partisan advocacy organizations, to prepay for the out-of-state travel and lodging expenses of state legislators.  View story.

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission lost its lawsuit against the state concerning funding. The agency filed suit on June 26 against the state, alleging lawmakers were required to provide adequate funding to the constitutional agency so it could perform its duties.  View story.

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission on Friday adopted for the second time rules that bar legislators and other elected officials from becoming state lobbyists during their first two years out of office.  View story.

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission passed a rule barring elected officials and agency heads from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving their positions. It’s the same rule lawmakers rejected during the 2018 legislative session.  View story.

August

Kentucky - The state agency that can fine lawmakers for ethical violations is asking the legislature to strengthen its own ethics code, including an explicit ban on sexual harassment and discrimination.  View story.

The Legislative Ethics Commission on Tuesday asked it be given clear authority to investigate complaints of sexual harassment against state legislators.  View story.

July

Alaska - Alaskans set out to make their government more accountable to the people—and it just worked. The Alaska Legislature raised the bar for ethics and integrity in government by passing HB 44.  View story.

Florida - The State Commission on Ethics will be asking state lawmakers to ban partners of a board member from representing clients and appearing before that board.  It is one of five recommendations the board is making to state lawmakers.  View story.

June

Alaska - It looks like voters will not have a chance this fall to weigh in on a legislative ethics ballot measure. Alaska’s Lieutenant Governor and the attorney general’s office have determined a bill passed by the legislature this spring is similar enough to keep the issue off the ballot.  View story.

Arkansas -  A chamber tasked with passing rules for others to follow is now putting its own members in check. The Arkansas Senate leadership will release a new ethics proposal Thursday in light of multiple bribery and corruption scandals involving current and former lawmakers.  View story.

Illinois - Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed into law a measure that will increase independence in the investigation of legislative ethics complaints in Illinois.  View story.

In addition to an overhaul of how the Illinois General Assembly deals with sexual harassment among its ranks, lawmakers approved several other measures meant to address concerns from the #MeToo movement.  View story.

The Illinois General Assembly is continuing its push to change what’s been criticized as a culture of sexual harassment. Lawmakers approved the first set of recommendations from a task force Thursday.  View story.

Louisiana - District attorneys across Louisiana are violating the state’s ethics laws by hiring off-duty police officers to write “diversion” traffic tickets that generate millions of dollars a year for district attorney’s offices.  View story.

North Dakota - Supporters seeking to amend the North Dakota constitution to include a sweeping government ethics overhaul say they have turned in more than 38,000 signatures to Secretary of State Al Jaeger.  View story.

May

Alaska - The Alaska Legislature on Friday evening finalized legislation that strengthens conflict of interest rules and makes it so lawmakers will not receive per diem after 121 days in legislative session unless an operating budget has passed.  View story.

Missouri - Opponents of current ethics laws that allow unlimited gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers on Thursday delivered dozens of boxes of signatures to Jefferson City to change the state’s constitution.  View story.

April

Alabama - Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law today a bill to exempt economic development professionals from registering as lobbyists under the state ethics law.  The bill, HB317 by Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton, would have died if the governor had not signed it by Sunday, Ivey Press Secretary Daniel Sparkman said.  View story.

Maryland - The Maryland Senate unanimously passed a measure Friday that would change how the General Assembly handles sexual harassment complaints.  Sexual harassment and discrimination complaints made to the legislature’s ethics committee would be referred to an independent investigator, unless the person who filed the complaint doesn’t want that to happen.  View story.

 Lawmakers also moved forward a bill that will change sexual harassment policies and training in Annapolis. House Bill 1342 passed the Senate unanimously.  The Senate version of the bill says that taxpayer money can’t be used to settle harassment or discrimination claims against lawmakers and other officials. The bill also requires harassment and discrimination claims made to the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics to be referred to an independent investigator, unless the person filing the complaint objects.  View story.

Texas - During a political rally on Feb. 20 in Houston, Gov. Greg Abbott echoed his long-standing position on legislator ethics with a statement that has become a cornerstone of his ethics reform campaign, when he said: "We need to end the revolving door of former legislators cashing in by going and becoming lobbyists."  View story.

March

Alabama - Alabama lawmakers voted Thursday to exempt economic developers from the state law governing lobbyists, an exemption that critics painted as creating a wide loophole in the state ethics law.  View story.

Alabama State Attorney General Steve Marshall announced a legislation aimed at strengthening the Alabama Ethics Act, also known as SB 343. The announcement was made today with Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, Senator Arthur Orr, Representative Mike Jones, and Ethics Commission Director Tom Albritton.  View story.

Florida - The Florida Constitution Revision Commission on Monday advanced a sweeping ethics package, which includes a proposed six-year lobbying ban for former state lawmakers, agency heads and local government officials.  View story.

North Dakota - After years of failed attempts in the North Dakota Legislature to form an ethics commission that would keep lawmakers in check, citizens are taking the matter into their own hands.  View story.

West Virginia - Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill Tuesday that will expand state ethics laws, ostensibly to include an unpaid member of his senior staff who serves as a “citizen volunteer.” House Bill 4424 amends the West Virginia Governmental Ethics Act to include unpaid volunteers who work in an advisory capacity to elected officials.  View story.

A bill is en route to Gov. Jim Justice’s desk that would expand the Ethics Act, essentially targeting one of his senior staff members.  House Bill 4424 would amend the act to include unpaid volunteers who work in an advisory capacity to elected officials.  View story.

February

Alabama - Alabama lawmakers may consider some election-year changes to the state ethics law, but it's unclear what proposals will get a serious look.  View story.

Despite claims from detractors that it could weaken state ethics laws, Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Fairhope) is standing by a bill he says would clarify rules about the kinds of business relationships Alabama politicos are allowed to maintain in office.  View story.

California - A Riverside County lawmaker's proposal to secure protections for legislative staffers who report ethics or other breaches related to sexual harassment and similar misconduct by their bosses is now bound for the governor's desk, following the Assembly's unanimous vote today in favor of the bill.  View story.

Nebraska - A Nebraska lawmaker is asking his fellow senators to create an ethics board that would investigate complaints against members of the Legislature.  View story.

New York - Talk about ethics reform in the new legislative session has been largely muted this year. Senate Democrats this week in Albany tried to change that.  View story.

West Virginia - The West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill Thursday to expand the state Ethics Act to include an increasingly influential worker from the governor’s office.  View story.

January

Florida - Rattled by sexual harassment allegations that ended the career of a powerful lawmaker and exposed a state capital culture that harbored abusers, a Florida Senate committee Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to make sexual harassment in government offices a crime.  View story.

Maryland -  The Maryland Senate’s Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee could soon take a position on proposed changes to ethics laws in Frederick County.  Sen. Michael Hough (R-District 4) outlined the objectives of the Frederick County delegation’s ethics bill Tuesday before the committee.  View story.