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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