Table of Legislative Ethics Committees

2/1/2018

State legislatures may pass ethics rules that impose restrictions on their members. To ensure the rules are followed, legislatures often establish oversight entities, such as ethics committees, ethics commissions, or a combination of both. Internal ethics committees are an important way for legislatures to gain trust and solidify credibility with the public.

Most have some semblance of a legislative ethics committee. These committees may hear ethics complaints against legislators, investigate, and impose penalties. Duties often vary by jurisdiction. Several states have standing ethics committees in one or both chambers, which mean they operate with the same status as a committee that deals with public policy issues like education or transportation. In other states or chambers, the legislature has the power to create an ad hoc committee. These committees only meet if there has been a violation of an ethics law or rule or if a complaint filed by another member or member of the public. Another approach is for a joint legislative ethics committee. 

This table is intended to provide general information and does not necessarily address all aspects of this topic. Because the facts of each situation may vary, this information may need to be supplemented by consulting legal advisors. All content is up to date through 2/1/2018.

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State Ethics Committees
State Committee details

Alabama

Senate:

Committee on Constitution, Ethics, and Elections (Standing). Referred bills and other matters concerning campaign finance, ethics, lobbyists, and elections. Shall not exceed 9 members. Senate Rule 48(a)(9).

Senate Ethics and Conduct Committee (Select). Responsibility to consider and act upon complaints of misconduct against an individual Senator during participation in a session or in a standing or interim committee. Five members, elected by the Senate, with one member elected by the minority party. Rule 48(b).

House:

Ethics Subcommittee of the Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee (Standing). House Rule 65. Functions similarly to the Senate Committee on Constitution, Ethics, and Elections.

Alaska

Joint Committee: 

Alaska Select Committee on Legislative Ethics (Select). Two subcommittees, one for each chamber, each with nine members: two legislators, five public members. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 24.60.130. Subcommittees exercise jurisdiction over the conduct of each chamber’s respective members. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 24.60.140. May issue advisory opinions. Id.

Arizona

House and Senate:

One ethics committee per chamber, each with 5 members with no more than 3 from a single party. Each shall propose a code of ethics and conflict of interest requirements to be enacted in the respective chamber. May issue advisory opinions, shall investigate complaints, and may report investigatory results to its respective chamber with recommendations for further action. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 38-519.

Arkansas

No House, Senate or joint ethics committees. The Senate may investigate and hold a public forum regarding alleged misconduct of a Senator. Senate Rule 24.08. No equivalent House rule exists.

California

Senate:

Senate Legislative Ethics Committee, sometimes referred to as the Senate Committee on Legislative Ethics (Standing). Receives complaints concerning members of the Senate, investigates, makes findings and recommendations concerning alleged ethics violations. Joint Rule 45.

House:

Assembly Legislative Ethics Committee (Select). Six members, three from the majority party and three from the minority party. Receives complaints against Assembly members. Power to investigate, make recommendations, and issue subpoenas. House Rule 22.5. 

Colorado

Joint Committee:

Board of Ethics for the General Assembly (Select). Four-member board, with one member from the majority and minority parties in each chamber. May issue advisory opinions.

In the House, the Speaker, Majority and Minority leaders may receive complaints then issue a preliminary decision as to if the committee should review the complaint. After investigation into the allegation, the committee issues findings either dismissing the complaint or recommending sanctions. House Rule 49.

In the Senate, the President receives the complaint and, upon consulting with majority and minority leadership, issues a preliminary decision as to whether or not the committee should review the complaint. Senate Rule 43.

Connecticut

No House, Senate or joint ethics committees. The Connecticut Ethics Commission exercises jurisdiction over legislators and lobbyists. 

Delaware

House and Senate shall each establish an ethics committee that may issue advisory opinions, refer matters to appropriate state or federal authorities when necessary, and investigate allegations of ethics violations. Del. Code Ann. tit. 29, § 1003.

Senate Rules & Ethics Committee (Standing). Senate Rule 19. Additional information not available.

House Ethics Committee (Standing). Five members, 3 appointed by the speaker and 2 appointed by the minority leader. Responsible for: recommending rules of conduct for members of the House, issuing advisory opinions, investigating alleged violations, report evidence of violations to appropriate law enforcement, other duties as necessary. House Rule 30.

Florida

Senate:

Senate Committee on Rules (Standing). Responsible for investigating and holding hearings on alleged ethics violations. Senate Rule 1.43. May issue advisory opinions on some ethics issues, such as those regarding lobbyist regulations. Rule 9.4. General ethics advisory opinions are handled by the Attorney General.

House:

Public Integrity and Ethics Committee (Standing). Receives complaints, investigates, and issues opinions. House Rule 7.1 & 18, May issue advisory opinions. House Rule 15.8.

Georgia

House:

Ethics Committee (Standing). Responsible for legislation relating to moral and ethical issues, as well as powers and duties relating to ethics complaints and alleged violations. House Rule 10 & 164.

Senate:

Committee on Ethics (Standing). May give advisory opinions. Senate Rule 1-4.9. May receive and investigate complaints, then issue recommendations. Senate Rule 1-4.10. Maximum of 13 Senators may serve on the Committee. Senate Rule 2-1.3.

Guam

Committee on Ethics and Standards (Standing). Consists of 4 majority party members and 2 minority party members. Committee maintains investigatory powers, receives complaints, and may recommend to the legislature what sort of corrective action should be taken. Standing Rule 19.04.

Note: Guam's legislature is unicameral.

Hawaii

Senate:

Committee on Judiciary and Labor (Standing). Handles ethics matters and bills. Senate Rule 16.

Most ethics oversight responsibility is deferred to the Ethics Commission.

Idaho

Senate:

Committee on Ethics (Select). President Pro Tempore receives ethics complaints, and then appoints a committee of 6 members, 3 of which are of the opposite party. Power to investigate, and make recommendations. Senate Rule 53.

House:

Committee on Ethics (Standing). House Rule 76. Power to receive, investigate and make recommendations regarding ethics complaints.

Illinois

No Senate ethics committee.

House:

Special Investigating Committee (Select). Formed when a complaint is filed with the Speaker. Charged with investigating charges. Senate Rule 91.

Select Committee on Discipline (Select). If investigating committee authorizes charges against a member of the House, Speaker and Minority Leader select 12 members, 6 each. Committee holds a hearing to recommend penalties.

Indiana

Senate:

Senate Committee on Ethics (Standing). Senate Rule 31. Renders advisory opinions. Senate Rule 94. May recommend amendments to the code of ethics and receive ethics complaints. Senate Rule 99.

House:

Statutory Committee on Ethics (Standing). May receive and act upon complaints. House Rule 174. Three members appointed by the presiding officer, and 3 appointed by the minority leader. Ind. Code Ann. § 2-2.2-3-1. Possesses investigatory powers. Ind. Code Ann. § 2-2.2-3-5.

Iowa

Both chambers required to establish a 6 person bipartisan ethics committee. May receive complaints, investigate, and dismiss or recommend disciplinary action. Iowa Code Ann. § 68B.31.

House:

Ethics Committee (Standing). Power to investigate allegations and recommend responses. House Rule 9. Hearing and investigatory powers further detailed in the House Code of Ethics.

Senate:

Ethics Committee (Standing). Receives complaints. Senate Code of Ethics 2. Receives disclosure statements. Id. at 11. Investigatory and hearing powers. Id. at 18-19.

Kansas

Senate:

Ethics, Elections and Local Government (Standing). Handles ethics legislation, not ethics complaints.

Kentucky

No ethics committees.

Louisiana

No ethics committees.

Maine

Joint Committee:

Joint Select Committee on Joint Rules (Select). Consists of 5 Senators and 5 Representatives, appointed by the President and Speaker, respectively. Tasked with reviewing joint rules and the Legislative Code of Ethics. Joint Rule 354.

Senate:

Committee on Conduct and Ethics (Standing). Five members appointed by the Senate President. Rule 201. Responsibilities not specified.

Select Committee on Ethics (Select). Administers financial disclosure requirements. 5 U.S.C.A. § APP. 4 § 111.

House:

Committee on Ethics (Standing). Appointed by the Speaker. House Rule 201. Responsibilities not specified. Administers financial disclosure requirements. 5 U.S.C.A. § APP. 4 § 111.

Maryland

Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics (Standing). 12 members, 6 from each chamber. Duties include: issue advisory opinions, establish ethical rules and guidelines, maintain records, including financial disclosure statements, investigate alleged violations and hold hearings. Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 2-701 et. seq.

Massachusetts

Senate:
Committee on Ethics and Rules (Standing). Sponsors ethics trainings for members and staff. Senate Rule 11D. Consists of 8 members, 2 of whom are appointed by the Minority Leader. Senate Rule 12. Receives rule violations and conduct complaints of members, officers, and employees of the Senate. Empowers to investigate, hear, and recommend punitive action. Senate Rule 12A.

House:
Committee on Ethics (Standing). Eleven members, 7 appointed by Speaker and 4 appointed by the Minority Leader. Receives complaints, investigates and holds hearings. House Rule 16.

Michigan

House:

Elections and Ethics (Standing). House Rule 33. Duties and responsibilities not defined by rule. Likely tasked with considering elections and ethics-related bills.

Senate:

Committee on Government Operations (Standing). Issues advisory opinions on legislative conduct and ethics. Senate Rule 1.310.  Investigates and determines if a violation occurred, and if penalties are warranted, shall issue sanctions by a 2/3 vote of the committee. Senate Rule 1.311.

Minnesota

House:

Committee on Ethics (Standing). Four members, two from each party. Receives complaints, conducts investigations, and issues recommendations that are reported to the House for final disposition. House Rule 6.10.

Senate:

Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct (Standing). Subcommittee of the Committee on Rules and Administration consisting of four members, two from each party. Senate Rule 55. Powers: receive complaints, investigate, issue findings, and make recommendations to the Committee on Rules and Administration for appropriate disciplinary action. Senate Rule 55. 

Mississippi

Senate:

Rules Committee (Standing). Jurisdiction over questions concerning improper or unethical conduct by Senators. Senate Rule 65. Consists of the Senate President, President Pro Tempore, and 4 senators, one from each congressional district. Senate Rule 65.

House:

Ethics (Standing). 8 members, 1 from each congressional district and 1 other, 1 from each Supreme Court district, all appointed by the Speaker. Conducts investigations, hearings and meetings relating to investigations of specific members, officer or employee of the House. Shall receive complaints alleging improper or unethical conduct. House Rule 63A.

Missouri

House:

Ethics Committee (Standing). Consists of an equal number of members from each party. House Rule 21. May consider and report upon complaints involving a member of the House. Authorized to investigate, hold hearings, make recommendations to the House regarding proposed resolution of the complaint. Rule 37.

Senate:

The Committee on Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics (Standing). Examines related bills. Recommends to the Senate rules by which investigations and disciplinary proceedings will be conducted. Senate Rule 28.

Montana

Senate:

Ethics (Standing). Senate Rule 30-20. Meets only upon call of the chair, upon referral of an issue from the Rules Committee or to consider a request for determination. Issues must relate to actions of a Senator during a legislative session. May issue recommendations to be voted upon by the Senate. Senate Rule 30-160. 

House:

Ethics (Standing). Considers bills relating to ethical standards applicable to members, officers, and employees of the House and standards relating to lobbyists. House Rule Appendix 1. 

Nebraska

No ethics committees.

Nevada

Each House shall determine the rules of its proceedings and may punish its members for disorderly conduct, and with the concurrence of two thirds of all the members elected, expel a member. Nev. Const. art. IV, § 6

Senate:

Committee on Ethics (Standing). 2 members appointed by majority leader, 1 by minority leader. Four qualified electors, 2 of which are appointed by majority leader, 1 appointed by minority leader, 1 appointed by the other members. Senate Rule 23.

Assembly:

Select Committee on Ethics (Select). 2 members appointed by the Speaker, 1 appointed by minority party. 3 qualified electors, 2 appointed by Speaker, 1 by minority. May give advisory opinions, receive complaints, investigate, and holds hearings. Assembly Rule 23. 

New Hampshire

Joint Committee:

Legislative Ethics Committee (Standing). Consists of: 1 house member appointed by speaker, 1 by minority leader, 1 citizen appointed by speaker, 1 senator by senate president, 1 senator by minority leader, 1 citizen by senate president, 1 citizen jointly by speaker, president, and minority leaders. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-B:2. Duties: issue guidelines, render advisory opinions, receive complaints, investigate, report findings to the legislature. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-B:3.

New Jersey

Joint Committee:

Ethical Standards Committee (Standing). Authority to receive, investigate, and report to the Senate and General Assembly with respect to allegations concerning the conduct or activities of members of the Legislature and employees, reflecting upon the good name, integrity and reputation of the Legislature or any member thereof. Senate Rule 19 & General Assembly Rule 19.

New Mexico

Senate:

Senate Ethics Committee (Select). Consists of President pro tempore, majority floor leader, majority whip, minority floor leader, minority whip, majority caucus chairman, 1 member of the senate minority party. May adopt rules of procedure, render advisory opinions, investigate complaints, hold hearings, and recommend outcomes to be voted upon by the Senate. Senate Rule 9-13.

House:

House Rules and Order of Business Committee (Standing). May issue advisory opinions, conduct hearings, investigate and receive complaints. House Rule 9-14.

Interim Legislative Ethics Committee (Select). Performs ethics oversight responsibilities while the legislature is out of session. House Rule 9-14.

New York

Assembly:

Standing Committee on Ethics and Guidance (Standing). Conducts ethics trainings. Assembly Rule 13. Issues advisory opinions upon request. Joint Rule 5-1.

Senate:

Ethics and Internal Governance Committee (Standing). Consists of an equal number of members from both parties. Senate Rule 8. Shall evaluate and make recommendations regarding ethics rules compliance. Jurisdiction over any matter referred to it by the Secretary of the Senate pertaining to the ethical conduct of legislative members. 

North Carolina

Joint Committee:

Legislative Ethics Committee (Select). Consists of 12 members: 6 senators appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, 6 members of the House appointed by the Speaker of the House. 3 of each 6 are nominated by the majority and minority party leaders, respectively. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 120-99. Powers and duties: prepare guidelines, issue advisory opinions, propose rules, investigate allegations of misconduct, perform other duties as necessary. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 120-102.

House:

Ethics Committee (Standing). Investigate alleged violations, issue recommendations. House Rule 28.1.

North Dakota

No ethics committees. 

Ohio

Joint Committee:

Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (Standing). Receives and hears complaints, issues advisory opinions, and imposes fines. See generally: Legislative Code of Ethics. 

Oklahoma

No ethics committees.

Oregon

Senate:

Special Committee on Conduct (Select). Investigates and issues recommendations regarding ethics complaints. Senate Rule 3.33.

Pennsylvania

Senate:

Committee on Ethics and Official Conduct (Standing). 6 members appointed by President Pro Tempore, with 3 from each party. Senate Rule 34. May adopt rules of procedure, receive complaints, conduct investigations, dispose of complaints, issue recommendations to the Senate for approval regarding proposed sanctions. Senate Rule 34.

House:

Committee on Ethics (Standing). 8 members, 4 from each party. Duties and powers: update and distribute handbook on ethics, conduct trainings, issue advisory opinions, receive complaints, dismiss complaints, investigate, hold hearings, House Rule 3E.

Rhode Island

Senate:

Committee on Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight (Standing). Duties: consider matters relating to Senate rules, ensure that members and staff adhere to standards of ethical conduct through education, monitoring and advisory opinions, to report its opinion and/or recommendation to the Senate. Senate Rule 5.

South Carolina

House:

Legislative Ethics Committee (Standing). 10 members, 5 from each party, with all officers of the committee being non-partisan. Duties: ensure full and accurate disclosures, receive complaints, investigate, issue advisory opinions, recommend rule changes, conduct formal hearings, and administer penalties. House Rule 4.16.

Senate:

Ethics Committee (Standing). 10 members. Duties: ensure full and accurate disclosures, receive complaints, investigate, issue advisory opinions, recommend rule changes, conduct formal hearings, and administer penalties. Senate Rule 44.

South Dakota

Senate:

Committee on Discipline and Expulsion (Select). Senate president appoints nine members with a 5-4 party split. The Senate president consults with the majority and minority leaders on all appointments except the chair and vice chair, who must be from different political parties. Duties: conduct hearings, investigate complaints. Senate Rule 8.

House:

House Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion (Select). The House speaker appoints nine members with a 5-4 party split. The speaker consults with the majority and minority leaders on all appointments except the chair and vice chair, who must be from different political parties. The committee can hold hearings, subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, require the production of books and records, and to do all other things necessary to accomplish the purpose of its hearings and deliberations; make disciplinary recommendations to the full House. Also has the power to punish for contempt and to
provide for the prosecution of any person for refusal to testify, false swearing, or perjury before the select committee in accordance with law. House Rule 6.

Tennessee

Senate:

Committee on Ethics (Select). 5 members appointed by the speaker, with a 3-3 party split. Receives complaints, investigate, and recommend disciplinary action to the Senate when appropriate. Senate Rule 76 & Article IV.

House:

Ethics Committee (Select). 10 members with a 5-5 party split. Authority to render advisory opinions, receive and consider complaints, investigate, hold hearings, recommend sanctions to the House for a vote. House Rule, Article IV.

Texas

House:

General Investigating and Ethics (Select). 7 members appointed by the speaker. Powers and duties: investigate matters relating to malfeasance, misfeasance, abuse of office, or incompetency, authority to propose articles of impeachment or other penalties. Senate Rule 3-14. 

Utah

Senate:

Investigating Committee (Select). Shall form upon submission of a complaint to the Senate President. Composed of 5 members, 3-2 majority-minority split. Power to investigate and recommend appropriate action to the Senate President. Senate Rule 3-103.

House:

House Management Committee (Select). Largely mirrors the senate committee powers and procedure, although house rules do not specify the composition of the committee. House Rule 3-103.

Vermont

Senate:

Ethics Panel (Select). Comprised of 5 members, including at least 1 from each major party. Receives and investigates allegations of ethical violations of senators, and recommends any disciplinary action against a senator for an ethical violation, if necessary. Senate Rule 102.

House:

Ethics Panel (Select). Appointed by Rules Committee. Advises members and provides training, investigates and may recommend disciplinary action to the House. House Rule 90(b).

Virginia

Senate:

Ethics Advisory Panel (Select). Composed of 5 members, 3 senators and 2 citizens. Members nominated by the Committee on Rules and confirmed by the Senate. Shall be bipartisan. Senate Rule XIX.

Senate Privileges and Elections Committee (Standing). 15 members based on the majority-minority ratio in the senate. Duties: Consider matters concerning elections; conflicts of interest; elected officeholders; and reprimand, censure, or expulsion of a senator, among other things; Review and report in cases involving financial disclosure statements; Recommend disciplinary actions where appropriate; Determine and report on all matters referred by the Senate Ethics Advisory Panel; Conduct hearings upon receiving a referral from the Senate Ethics Advisory Panel or a resolution seeking the reprimand , censure, or expulsion of a member. Senate Rules Art. VI § 18(h) and Art. VIII § 20.

House:

Ethics Advisory Panel (Select). Not described in the House Rules, although the existence of one is required by Va. Code Ann. § 30-112.

Standards of Conduct Subcommittee (Standing subcommittee of Rules Committee). 4 members, equally divided by party, appointed by the Rules Committee Chair. Review members’ statements of economic interests and consider their requests for advisory opinions with respect to the propriety of current or proposed actions. House Rule 23 & 24.
House Privileges and Elections Committee (Standing). Receives and investigates charges or complaints against a member in the performance of duties or discharge of responsibilities. May recommend actions to enforce standards of conduct. House Rule 24

Washington

Legislative Ethics Board provides legislative ethics oversight. It is not a traditional committee; the Ethics Board is somewhat of a hybrid of a joint committee and a commission. Comprised of 9 members: 2 senators, one from each major party; 2 representatives, one from each major party; 5 citizen members chosen by various methods determined by statute. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.52.310.

Please refer to the 50-State Survey on Commissions for more information about the powers and duties of the Legislative Ethics Board. 

West Virginia

Joint Commission on Special Investigations (Standing subcommittee of the Commission on Special Investigations). 10 members: 5 senators with a 3-2 party split, and 5 delegates with a 3-2 party split. Power to investigate, recommend criminal prosecution or civil action for any civil or criminal violation at any level of state government. Authority to sit during any recess of Senate and House delegates. W. Va. Code Ann. § 4-5-1 & 4-5-2

Wisconsin

House:

Assembly Special Committee on Ethics and Standards of Conduct (Select). 6 members with a 3-3 party split. Appointed by the speaker. The duties of the committee include: Upon the referral of a resolution by the Assembly to reprimand, censure, or expel a member, hold one or more hearings; Make a recommendation for action to the Assembly, including a written report. Assembly Rule 21.

Wyoming

No ethics committees.