April 10, 2012 •
Special session may be called
The General Assembly adjourned Monday at midnight following a tense debate that failed to pass a revenue plan needed to avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts.
Democratic legislators say they will ask Governor Martin O’Malley to call a special session for more time to work on the revenue package and other measures.
The governor would not say whether he planned to call for a special session.
Photo of the Maryland State House by Thisisbossi on Wikipedia.
March 28, 2012 •
Today we have news on redistricting issues from nine states:
Alaska: “Alaska Redistricting Board says it has adopted new election districts” by Matt Buxton in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner.
Arizona: “Brewer signs bill to keep Arizona redistricting commission going while new maps are pending” by The Associated Press in The Republic.
Florida: “Redrawn Senate map passes House, scramble for seats begin” by Mary Ellen Klas in the Tampa Bay Times.
Florida: “Legislature ends redistricting session, new Senate map approved” by Mary Ellen Klas in The Miami Herald.
Idaho: “Redistricting will shake up Idaho Legislature” by Sean Ellis in the Capital Press.
Kansas: “Kan. House to debate congressional remap bill” by The Associated Press in the Salina Journal.
Maryland: “Group seeks referendum on new Md. congressional map” by Annie Linskey in The Baltimore Sun.
Missouri: “Missouri Supreme Court upholds House districts” by Elizabeth Crisp in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
West Virginia: “W.Va. lawmakers seek OK of congressional districts” by Eric Eyre in the Charleston Gazette.
Wisconsin: “Judges: Collaboration needed on Wis. voting maps” by The Associated Press on Madison.com.
Wisconsin: Opinion piece “Redistricting decision offers important lesson” by Christine Neumann-Ortiz in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
February 27, 2012 •
Maryland State Ethics Commission finds county law out of compliance
The State Ethics Commission has found the county’s new public ethics law to be below state standards because it allows elected leaders to accept tickets to sporting events from people who do business with the county.
Although state lawmakers are prohibited from free sports tickets, both state and county laws allow lawmakers to accept free admission to charitable, cultural, and political affairs events if the tickets come from the events’ sponsors.
Michael Lord, Executive Director of the commission, notes that the county’s ethics law does not call for disclosure of those tickets, which is required under state rules.
The county has maintained that its ethics laws are among the toughest in the state, but the commission has warned the county that it is not in compliance with a 2010 law that requires local ethics laws to be at least as strong as those state lawmakers must follow.
February 23, 2012 •
Addresses lobbying and campaign finance
The State Ethics Commission has issued a memorandum concerning provisions of the ethics law relating to regulated lobbyists and campaign finance activities.
State law prohibits a lobbyist or a person acting on behalf of a lobbyist to engage in certain campaign activities including soliciting contributions or forwarding tickets to fundraising events.
The memorandum does not constitute an advisory opinion but addresses common issues and provides approaches for compliance with the technical provisions of the law.
The memorandum is available online here.
February 21, 2012 •
Here is a quick look at three news items where government and the internet meet:
Hawaii: “Tech-Savvy Leaders Push Honolulu Toward Gov 2.0” by Michael Levine in Honolulu Civil Beat.
Maryland: “NIC to Run Maryland’s Website” in Government Technology.
New York: “Mayor Bloomberg Puts N.Y. Government On Facebook” by Julie Andrews on All Facebook.
February 17, 2012 •
Here is today’s redistricting news from the states:
Arizona: “Arizona House Speaker wants June special election on redistricting” by Mary Jo Pitzl in The Arizona Republic.
Florida: “Gov. Rick Scott signs off on new congressional districts” by Brandon Larrabee in the Miami Herald.
“With redistricting lawsuit looming, legislators want immunity” by Mary Ellen Klas in the Tampa Bay Times.
“House redistricting tweaks quietly put U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams in her preferred district” by Mark K. Matthews and Aaron Deslatte in the Orlando Sentinel.
Maryland: “Alternative redistricting plans stalled” by Danielle E. Gaines in the Gaithersburg Gazette.
Missouri: “Missouri Supreme Court examines new US House districts” by Chris Blank in the Kansas City Star.
New York: “Senate redistricting proposal comes under fire” by Aaron Besecker in The Buffalo News.
“Judge calls for ‘special master’ to redraw state legislative and congressional district boundaries” by Kenneth Lovette in the New York Daily News.
Washington: “Secretary of state asking justices to approve redistricting plan” byThe Associated Press in The Seattle Times.
Wisconsin: “Court issues stern order in state redistricting” by Scott Bauer in the Green Bay Press Gazette.
“Federal judges slam GOP lawmakers over redistricting secrecy” by Patrick Marley in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
February 15, 2012 •
Here is a look at what has appeared in the last few days from the state ethics commissions:
Arizona: “Ariz. lawmakers want elected officials to disclose use of public funds” by Howard Fischer in the East Valley Tribune.
Georgia: “Advocates push for ethics funding” by Charles Edwards on WABE News.
“Watchdog groups demand more money for ethics board” by in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Maryland: “Maryland Ethics Panel Suggests Reducing Local Disclosure” by Brian Witte (Associated Press) on NBC Washington.
“Bill would require online disclosure” by Michael Dresser in the Baltimore Sun.
Minnesota: “Lobbying violations vex understaffed Minnesota regulator” by Brad Schrade in the Star Tribune.
North Carolina: “Dome: Few ethics complaints probed, report shows” by John Frank in The News & Observer.
January 4, 2012 •
Last year, Maryland’s legislature passed a public ethics law, Title 15, after finding an erosion of public confidence in government decisions due to improper influence.
Title 15 requires government officials and employees to disclose their financial affairs and sets minimum ethical standards for the conduct of state and local business. The law also requires all counties, municipalities, and school boards adopt ethics standards at least equal to the state’s ethics law with regard to conflicts of interest, financial disclosure, and lobbying. Each local ethics commission is required to certify its compliance with the Maryland Ethics Commission on or before October 1st of each year, beginning in 2011.
Some local officials are still working toward agreement and passage of the required bills. Although officials may follow the state’s guidelines, many are choosing their own paths. For instance, the registration thresholds for lobbyists in Title 15 include an expenditure clause and a gift clause: $500 in expenditures towards influencing legislative or executive action; or $100 in gifts for the purpose of influencing executive action. The recently passed Charles County bill has a $100 gift threshold, while Alleghany County’s gift threshold is $200. Neither bill includes an expenditure clause. However, in Howard County, there is a $100 expenditure threshold for any lobbying activity, but no gift threshold.
Conflict of interest rules have also been the subject of debate. Title 15 forbids former public officials (other than legislators) and employees from assisting or representing a party in a contract or other specific matter for compensation if the former official or employee participated significantly in the matter as an official or employee. Frederick County attempted to limit this prohibition to one year for former commissioners with an exemption for former employees. This modification was rejected by the state. The Frederick County delegation now plans to propose changes to Title 15 before the general assembly to allow the one year limitations.
Counties such as Baltimore and Montgomery continue to debate and, as of December 1, 2011, had yet to approve a final version of the required ethics bill.
In the latest development, the State Ethics Commission met to respond to exemption requests. According to the Maryland Municipal League web site:
“The Maryland State Ethics Commission met on December 8 to consider a number of exemption requests from various municipalities around the state. Several jurisdictions were requesting an extension of an existing exemption, while some cities and towns were requesting new exemptions from the recently enacted financial disclosure reporting requirement. The results were varied, although it seemed as though population and budget size were the criteria most often cited by the members of the Ethics Commission when exemptions were being considered. For more information, please contact Tom Reynolds or Candace Donoho on the MML staff.”
January 3, 2012 •
According to the Maryland State Ethics Commission, Gerard Evans – who was convicted of fraud and spent time in prison – is back in the top earning position in the state for the past year.
Read the full story in “Evans regains top lobbying spot in Annapolis” by John Wagner in the Washington Post.
Here is a list of the top 135 lobbyists in compensation in Maryland by the State Ethics Commission.
December 20, 2011 •
Original bill was scaled back.
The Baltimore County Council has passed a wide-ranging ethics bill after scaling back parts of the original bill proposed by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. A series of amendments sponsored by all seven council members weakened parts of the original bill dealing with when officials can accept gifts and what defines a conflict of interest for council members.
In an effort to exceed the requirements set by a 2010 state law, Kamenetz’s original bill said public officials could not accept gifts from someone they know does business “with the county.” The council narrowed the rule to say they could not accept gifts from anyone they know does business with the “public official’s office, agency, board or commission.”
The new bill also deleted an entire section defining conflicts of interest specifically for council members in favor of a broader definition that applies to all public officials. The new bill still requires elected officials’ financial disclosure forms to be posted online starting in May 2012.
December 14, 2011 •
Bereano puts ethics charges behind him.
The Baltimore Sun reported that lobbyist Bruce Bereano has settled the ethics case with the Maryland State Ethics Commission by agreeing to pay a $2,750 fine.
For the full story read “Bereano settles ethics charges for $2,750” by Michael Dresser.
December 2, 2011 •
Contributions would be limited to $10 per text message.
Following in the footsteps of California, the state of Maryland will be allowing political campaign contributions via text messages on mobile devices. Jared DeMarinis, Maryland State Board of Elections’ Director of Candidacy and Campaign Finance, says this will open the process up to more people giving smaller donations.
For the full story, read “Rule would allow campaign donations by text message” by Annie Linskey in the Baltimore Sun.
According to the article: “Maryland’s General Assembly passed legislation this year authorizing campaign contributions by text message and directing the Board of Elections to implement the change. The board has drafted regulations, which are subject to public comment before they can go into effect.”
December 1, 2011 •
Training on using the new site will be offered December 12.
The Maryland State Board of Elections has launched a new campaign finance website that provides easier searches and greater transparency of campaign finance reports. The new website upgrades and further automates reporting and disclosure of campaign contributions. The new site replaces one run on outmoded software.
Previously, campaign finance reports had to be manually uploaded to the website, often delaying public disclosure until the next day. With the new site, reports are automatically uploaded and can be accessed immediately. The public now has more ways to search campaign finance documents and more comprehensive information about committees, including any violations.
The State Board of Elections will start offering training on how to use the new software on December 12, targeting current and future candidates and fundraising committees. The training will be offered on several dates around the state.
November 21, 2011 •
FREDERICK COUNTY, MARYLAND: Commissioners reluctantly passed an ethics bill they expect to be challenged in court. The bill forbids county employees from ever working for a company that does business with the county.
Previously, the state rejected a less stringent bill exempting county employees and requiring commissioners to wait just one year before accepting employment with a company they did business with while in office.
Commissioners indicated the only reason for the controversial change was the state’s mandate to pass the ethics ordinance. Changes to the county gift law prohibit commissioners from accepting tickets or free admission to sporting events and require free meals to be consumed in the presence of the donor.
The law now goes back to the State Ethics Commission for its approval.
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.