May 19, 2016 •
A group of current and past politicians have announced an initiative to strengthen ethics laws in Miami-Dade County. The group, named An Accountable Miami-Dade, is leading the charge to place a measure on the November ballot. The measure would strengthen […]
A group of current and past politicians have announced an initiative to strengthen ethics laws in Miami-Dade County.
The group, named An Accountable Miami-Dade, is leading the charge to place a measure on the November ballot. The measure would strengthen enforcement of existing campaign finance laws, create pay-to-play restrictions on large contractors, create a ban on gifts from lobbyists, and institute a $250 per-election contribution limit to mayoral and commission candidates.
An Accountable Miami-Dade is headed by Monica Russo, president of the SEUI Florida Council, and Bettina Rodriguez, a former mayor of Doral. It also includes several local officeholders and party leaders.
April 15, 2016 •
Gov. Butch Otter signed a procurement bill into law late last month, overhauling how the state makes purchases. House Bill 538 repeals existing statutes in favor of a completely new chapter, dubbed the State Procurement Act. The Act requires training […]
Gov. Butch Otter signed a procurement bill into law late last month, overhauling how the state makes purchases.
House Bill 538 repeals existing statutes in favor of a completely new chapter, dubbed the State Procurement Act. The Act requires training for state officers and employees, including ethics training, and modernizes purchasing procedures.
The new law takes effect July 1, 2016.
April 13, 2016 •
The City-County Council passed a proposal earlier this week to amend Indianapolis-Marion County ethics and lobbying laws. The proposal creates employment restrictions and post-employment restrictions for city-county employees and certain officials. A current official, the deputy mayor, and any individual […]
The City-County Council passed a proposal earlier this week to amend Indianapolis-Marion County ethics and lobbying laws. The proposal creates employment restrictions and post-employment restrictions for city-county employees and certain officials.
A current official, the deputy mayor, and any individual with appointment authority may not be employed by or work as a subcontractor for any person with a contract or arrangement with an agency. Moreover, former employees must wait one year before being employed as a lobbyist following termination of employment with the city or county.
All government contracts will require vendors to certify adherence to the employment restrictions. The proposal also adds things of value to the list of reportable lobbyist gifts and requires lobbyists to list the name of the official, appointee, or employee receiving a reportable gift. Lastly, the proposal amends penalties for lobbyists and their firms for registration, reporting, and ethics violations.
February 12, 2016 •
Columbus City Council President Zach Klein will hold a public hearing on proposed ethics legislation on Wednesday, February 17, 2016. The proposed changes enhance transparency and accountability for lobbyists, strengthen ethics disclosure laws, and amend campaign finance reporting requirements. Public […]
Columbus City Council President Zach Klein will hold a public hearing on proposed ethics legislation on Wednesday, February 17, 2016. The proposed changes enhance transparency and accountability for lobbyists, strengthen ethics disclosure laws, and amend campaign finance reporting requirements.
Public testimony will be accepted. Comments will be limited to three minutes. Those wishing to comment must fill out a speaker slip at Columbus City Hall on the day of the hearing.
February 19, 2015 •
Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed a bill authorizing the Ethics Commission to oversee new ethics laws contained in a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2014. The amendment prohibited lobbyist gifts and corporate contributions, but did not provide the Ethics […]
Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed a bill authorizing the Ethics Commission to oversee new ethics laws contained in a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2014. The amendment prohibited lobbyist gifts and corporate contributions, but did not provide the Ethics Commission authority to administer the constitutional changes.
Act 47 (House Bill 1002) is effective immediately and allows the Ethics Commission to begin issuing advisory opinions and guidelines concerning the amendment.
February 11, 2015 •
The House of Delegates and Senate each passed versions of ethics reform bills targeting gifts to lawmakers. Both chambers and the governor have agreed on a $100 limit, including meals and travel, as well as the creation of a bipartisan […]
The House of Delegates and Senate each passed versions of ethics reform bills targeting gifts to lawmakers. Both chambers and the governor have agreed on a $100 limit, including meals and travel, as well as the creation of a bipartisan commission to advise members and issue waivers for travel exceeding the limit.
The governor, however, proposed the commission be given subpoena and audit power while the Senate favors the power to inspect records and issue civil penalties. The House version does not include either provision.
Certain lawmakers are concerned the commission, if given too much power, will only serve as a vehicle for political retribution. The House and Senate, in the coming weeks, will work towards a compromise to send to Gov. McAuliffe.
Photo of the Virginia State Capitol by Varmin on Wikimedia Commons.
April 29, 2014 •
Counsel for the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission John Schaaf testified before the Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee on Kentucky’s strict ethics laws. Pennsylvania has one of the most lax ethics laws in the country, permitting officials to receive gifts in […]
Counsel for the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission John Schaaf testified before the Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee on Kentucky’s strict ethics laws. Pennsylvania has one of the most lax ethics laws in the country, permitting officials to receive gifts in any amount, while Kentucky recently made its own strict law even more stringent by prohibiting all lobbyist gifts. Pennsylvania’s ethics laws have been under scrutiny after the recent allegations of legislators accepting cash payments from a lobbyist as part of a sting operation.
Schaaf testified about prior changes to Kentucky’s law enacted in a special session in 1993, in response to several legislators charged with ethics violations by the FBI. Schaaf stressed the importance of getting a law on the books; once enacted, it is difficult to change.
However, Kentucky’s ethics law only covers legislators and legislative candidates, and Pennsylvania Senator Lloyd Smucker, sponsor of a bill banning cash gifts, said broadening such a ban to other government employees makes the legislation more complex and may make it difficult to win support. Still, Pennsylvania’s lawmakers were interested in Kentucky’s approach to ethics, particularly the idea of an independent ethics commission available to answer questions from lawmakers and lobbyists.
April 8, 2014 •
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has submitted technical changes to the General Assembly on the major ethics legislation passed this session, including a change to the effective date of the legislation. The legislation enacts a limit on gifts from lobbyists and […]
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has submitted technical changes to the General Assembly on the major ethics legislation passed this session, including a change to the effective date of the legislation.
The legislation enacts a limit on gifts from lobbyists and principals and increases the frequency for lobbyist filings.
The changes must be approved by the House and Senate before the legislation takes effect.
Photo of Gov. Terry McAuliffe courtesy of Kate Wellington in Wikimedia Commons.
October 23, 2013 •
Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc.
Q. I am a registered lobbyist with a personal relationship with a state legislator. I would like to give her a gift for a special occasion. Is this permissible?
A. As a registered lobbyist, you should always be aware of the restrictions placed on you for providing things of value to a state official. A number of jurisdictions have strict “no gift” laws in place. Wisconsin prohibits a lobbyist from providing things of pecuniary value to a legislator with very limited exceptions.
A gift can be permissible based on the personal relationship between the lobbyist and the legislator. Texas and Florida allow gifts between a registered lobbyist and a legislator if they are related to a certain degree. Please note that jurisdictions can examine the circumstances of the gift such as the extent of the relationship between the lobbyist and the legislator. The lack of a history of gift giving between the parties or evidence of a personal relationship may render the gift impermissible. The federal “friendship” exception also does not apply to state and local jurisdictions.
A registered lobbyist may be allowed to give a gift based on the special occasion or reasoning behind it. In Massachusetts, a lobbyist may give a legislator gifts on certain occasions of religious or personal significance. Connecticut allows gifts for certain major life events. Be sure to confirm if any occasions are excluded. Massachusetts does not consider a birthday to be an occasion of personal significance!
A gift may not be prohibited even if you are a registered lobbyist. Confirm whether an intended gift is permissible with your state’s ethics office.
You can directly submit questions for this feature, and we will select those most appropriate and answer them here. Send your questions to: email@example.com.
(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.
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.”
August 2, 2011 •
Public Hearing Scheduled
The Frederick County Board of Commissioners voted to have a public hearing for a new ethics ordinance which, among other things, would no longer require lobbyists to disclose their annual income.
Based on one of the state’s recommended models for local ethics laws for counties and cities, the ordinance drew concerns by commissioners that the requirements for lobbyists could be weaker than those currently in place. As an example, Frederick County’s requirements for registration and reporting for grassroots lobbying are not included in the proposed ordinance, which would supersede the current law.
The public hearing has been scheduled for September 6.
April 13, 2011 •
House Approves Ethics Measure in Georgia; Senate to Review Measure Next
The Georgia House of Representatives voted Tuesday to close a loophole in the state ethics law concerning expenditures made on behalf or for the benefit of public employees.
The House voted to amend Senate Bill 160 to add provisions requiring lobbyist reporting of expenditures made on behalf or for the benefit of a public employee for the purpose of influencing a public officer after Advisory Opinion 2011-03, released by the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, concluded state law did not require the reporting of such expenditures.
The bill must now return to the Senate for a vote on the House amendment.
Photo of the Georgia State Capitol dome by Connor.carey on Wikipedia.
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.
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.
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.