Ethics bill ready For Senate passage

An e-mail update from Indiana State Senators David Long (R-16th) and Tom Wyss (R-15th):

Ethics bill ready For Senate passage

(February 1, 2010) A proposed ethics plan co-authored by State Sen. Tom Wyss to “help enhance the integrity and reputation of state government” is ready for passage by the Indiana Senate.

Senate lawmakers approved an amendment to Senate Bill 114 sending the measure, designed to tighten state ethics standards, to a third reading on Tuesday.

Wyss said he signed onto the legislation after noticing the public’s growing concern for the role lobbyists play in the legislative process and their reportable expenses.

“There have been growing concerns among constituents about the decision by some legislators to leave their elected positions and become members of the lobbying community,” Wyss said. “Switching from one role to the other without the passage of reasonable time raises questions about the relationship between lobbyists and legislators.”

Here are highlights of the state ethics bill as amended today in the Senate:

  • Requires lawmakers to wait at least one year after leaving office before becoming professional lobbyists or legislative liaisons;
  • Requires all gifts, food and entertainment to be reported uniformly as expenses by all lobbyists;
  • Reduces the threshold for reported one-time lobbyist expenses from $100 to $50 and reduces the annual total from $500 to $250;
  • Prohibits lobbyists from giving a gift of more than $50 to a lawmaker without their consent;
  • Expands state registration and reporting requirements to include the executive branch and university legislative lobbyists;
  • Prohibits lobbyists from paying for out-of-state travel expenses for legislators;
  • Requires the Lobby Registration Commission to publish more of its information on the Internet;
  • Increases penalties from $10 per day to $100 per day for failure to file lobbyist registrations and reports in a timely manner. Increases the maximum penalty for failure to file lobbyist registration statements and activity reports from $100 to $4,500;
  • Prohibits state candidates and officeholders from political fundraising during the long session when lawmakers are already barred from doing so;
  • Prohibits legislators from accepting honoraria for appearances and speeches related to legislative matters;
  • Requires county clerks to locally provide copies of state candidates’ documents from state Web sites; and
  • Prohibits statewide officeholders from appearing or using their name in a print, radio or television advertisement funded with state-appropriated money unless there is a “compelling public policy reason” and permission is granted from the State Budget Committee and State Budget Agency. Gubernatorial public service announcements related to public health or safety would automatically be allowed.

A separate ethics reform package was passed the Indiana House of Representatives by a vote of 97-2 and will also be considered by the Senate.Before the session ends, Wyss said it is expected that Senate Bill 114 and House Bill 1001 will be combined as a single ethics package giving Indiana the most comprehensive ethics reforms in years.

“Trust and confidence of the people should be primary goals of state elected officials,” Wyss said. “The integrity and reputation of state government should be ensured.”

Websites:
Senator David Long
Senator Tom Wyss

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