August 24, 2010 •
The State Ethics Commission has noted worries over whether it will be able to effectively implement the requirements of the new ethics law passed by the state legislature in 2010.
Executive Secretary Stacey Kalberman has pointed to a lack of resources available to the commission to provide the required oversight. Budget cuts have delayed technology upgrades despite an anticipated 1,000% increase in filings when the law takes effect in January, 2011. Further, the commission employed three investigators and three auditors a few years ago, but currently employs just one auditor and no investigators.
Kalberman has stated that the commission presently relies primarily on the press and outside sources to bring ethics violations to their attention.
For further reading here is an article in the Florida Times-Union: “Georgia Ethics Commission Aces Overload,” by Walter C. Jones.
And an article from GPB News: “Agency Doesn’t Have Funds to Enforce Ethics Law,” by Melissa Stiers.
August 17, 2010 •
Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc.
You can directly submit questions for this feature, and we will select those most appropriate and answer them here. Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. I attended the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures. While there, I took a group of legislators from various states to dinner and picked up the tab. Most of the legislators were accompanied by spouses. In those jurisdictions requiring disclosure of this dinner expenditure, must I also disclose the amount spent on the spouse?
A. Almost all states requiring disclosure of food and beverage expenditures incurred on behalf of reportable officials also require disclosure of the amount spent on the official’s spouse or immediate family member. However, there are exceptions.
- In Idaho, the lobbying law does not require disclosure of expenditures for spouses and family members of legislators. However, it is common practice for lobbyists to report such expenditures anyway.
- In Michigan, food and beverage expenditures on behalf of spouses or family members are not reportable. However, travel expenditures greater than $725 on behalf of spouses or family members are reportable.
- In Montana, a principal is not required to report expenditures made on behalf of a spouse or immediate family member of a legislator, public officer, or employee.
- In Rhode Island, expenditures made on behalf of family members are not reportable as lobbyist expenditures, but are reported by elected officials.
- In Vermont, expenditures on behalf of a spouse or immediate family member are not reportable.
(We are always available to answer questions from clients that are specific to your needs, and we encourage you to continue to call or e-mail us with questions about your particular company or organization. As always, we will confidentially and directly provide answers or information you need.) Our replies to your questions are not legal advice. Instead, these replies represent our analysis of laws, rules, and regulations.
August 11, 2010 •
After a long wait, Broward County, Florida has a new ethics law.
A contentious meeting of the Broward County Commission has resulted in a new code of ethics law for the county. The new law bars county commissioners and family members from accepting lobbyist gifts. It also establishes a new Office of Inspector General.
For more coverage of this breaking news:
“Gnashing of teeth, tongue-lashing, and ethics reform,” by Brittany Wallman in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
August 2, 2010 •
Three articles from the upcoming issue of News You Can Use.
“ME: Maine watching Arizona elections case,” by Kevin Miller from the Bangor Daily News.
Former Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom gets no plea deal because he refuses to participate in a sheriff’s work program:
“Ray Sansom Plea Deal Scrapped When Defendants Balk at Jail Gang Duty,” by Lee Logan and Steve Bousquet from the St. Petersburg Times
From Pennsylvania, Bonusgate staffer Stephen Keefer files a lawsuit in federal court:
“Acquitted Bonusgate Staffer Files Lawsuit,” by Brad Bumsted and Brian Bowling from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
July 23, 2010 •
New Hampshire Governor John Lynch has vetoed legislation that would have permitted members of the Executive Branch Ethics Committee to participate in partisan political activities.
Senate Bill 440 would have permitted members of the committee, during their term of service, to participate in elections for federal offices, including allowing their names to be in used in endorsements of candidates. Members would have also been permitted to campaign for candidates seeking federal offices and make contributions to their campaigns.
Citing the potential conflict-of-interest that could arise from members of the ethics committee engaging in political activity, Governor Lynch vetoed the measure on July 20, 2010. “I believe that SB 440 would weaken the Executive Branch Ethics Committee and would compromise the ability of its members to discharge their obligations impartially in the eyes of the public. It could create the perception that partisan politics plays a role in the decisions of the committee,” Lynch said.
For further reading here is the governor’s press release.
Photo by Marc Nozell used under a Creative Commons license.
July 22, 2010 •
Maryland Lawmakers Regulate Social Media Activity
Lawmakers adopted rules for candidates using social networking Web sites, making Maryland one of the first states to regulate such activity.
Here are two articles for further reading:
“Candidates Must Adhere to New Social Media Rules,” by Julie Bykowicz in the Baltimore Sun
“Maryland Lawmakers Pass New Election Law Restricting Facebook Today,” by Chet Dembeck in the Baltimore Examiner
July 20, 2010 •
The five members of the state’s new independent legislative ethics commission met for the first time on Monday, July 19, 2010.
The commission is open for business even though, at this time, the commission has no staff, no Web site, no e-mail address, and only received a temporary mailing address in the Lt. Governor’s office on Monday evening. For the time being, complaints may be sent to Lt. Governor Bell’s office in confidence to P.O. Box 142525, Salt Lake City, UT 84114. Complaints may also be delivered in person to Bell’s office in Suite 220 at the State Capitol.
The Utah Legislature created the commission this year as part of an effort to reform legislative ethics. Utah voters will be able to vote in November on whether or not to make the new commission a permanent part of the state constitution.
Photo by Scott Catron on Wikipedia.
July 15, 2010 •
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed ethics legislation designed to help clean up Missouri’s political culture.
This ethics overhaul was a top priority for Nixon and legislative leaders this year. Among the major changes, the new law requires elected officials and candidates to report larger campaign donations within 48 hours. It also gives the bipartisan Missouri Ethics Commission the power to begin investigations on its own, without waiting for a complaint. The law also expands reporting requirements for lobbyists who invite groups of state officials to events. Under this new law, campaign disclosure reports must be filed electronically beginning in January, 2011 and the fines for late reports are increased significantly.
July 2, 2010 •
On July 1, 2010, three retired judges and two former lawmakers were named to the state legislature’s new independent ethics commission.
The new five-member commission, which will handle ethics complaints against lawmakers, was created in response to a grassroots citizens’ initiative for legislative ethics. The panel includes a retired member of the Utah Supreme Court as well as a former lieutenant governor. The commission’s first organizational meeting has yet to be scheduled but it will be open to the public. Utah voters will have the opportunity to decide whether or not to make the new panel a permanent part of the state constitution.
July 1, 2010 •
The Georgia SEC will be hosting a training July 7.
The Georgia State Ethics Commission will be offering training for committees other than candidate committees on Wednesday, July 7, 2010. The training session is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. and be completed by 11:00 a.m. Training will take place in Suite 1514C-West Tower of the Commission’s offices located at 200 Piedmont Avenue in Atlanta. Those wishing to attend the training may RSVP online or contact Maria Cartwright for further details.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com