by Natalie Wood
While you’re busy tracking your brackets, we at NCSL’s Ethics Center are tracking legislation in our own version of March Madness. Seven legislatures adjourned their 2010 regular sessions by mid-March, and five of them--Indiana, New Mexico, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia--took on the issue of ethics reform.
Indiana’s House Enrolled Act 1001 passed with unanimous consent in both chambers and was signed by the governor this week. Changes include a one year revolving door provision, a revised monetary threshold for lobbyist gift reporting, a conflict of interest reporting requirement for lobbyists, and a requirement that university legislative liaisons register as lobbyists. Some have called it “the most sweeping legislative and lobbying reforms in decades,” while others claim it serves as a “starting point,” and plan to push for more change in 2011.
The Utah Legislature, after tweaking gift disclosure, mandating ethics training, and instituting a revolving door provision last year, once again broached ethics – this time focusing on ethics oversight, namely the creation of an ethics commission. HJR15 would establish an independent ethics commission in the state constitution, pending voter approval, and SJR3 would modify the legislature’s joint rules to outline the makeup of the new panel and establish how it will review complaints. A citizen’s group is gathering signatures to put a competing ethics commission proposal on the ballot this fall. The legislature also passed rules that ban gifts over $10 from lobbyists to legislators, with some exceptions, and requires other gifts to be reported. The issue of ethics has been a hot topic in the press and at the Capitol for the past few years, largely due to allegations and scandals implicating legislators, two of whom resigned during the 2010 session.