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Daily Press: Six House members urge McAuliffe to beef up ethics bill Print

BY:  DAVE RESS

Created:  Thursday, March 5, 2015 9:44AM

 

Six members of the House of Delegates – none from the Peninsula, though – say there were House members lined up to speak or question the last minute deal on an ethics bill when Speaker Bill Howell cut short debate.

In a letter to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, urging him to recommend changes to the bill, they say they believe that if they'd had a chance to question the bill, the House would have rejected it and told House and Senate negotiators to go back and try harder for a better bill.

The six say that if the bill had not been ramrodded through, House members would have been able to press for changes they'd like McAuliffe to recommend. Those include:

*Banning gift splitting to prevent a lobbyist from exceeding the gift limit by allocating the cost to multiple clients (the Daily Press wrote about this, and you can read it here.)

*Giving the new Ethics Council to audit, receive and investigate signed complaints, subpoena records, and refer for prosecution.

*Reversing the new bill's narrowing of who is banned from giving gifts – it bans lobbyists and their clients but the current law also bans people seeking contracts from the state.

*Closing loopholes the new bill opens up for free travel – it says legislators can accept freebies if the travel is for purposes of their legislative work.

*Banning use of campaign finance funds for use for personal purposes, such as legisaltors' gasoline, mobile phones, meals, or utilities on their residence.

*Requiring legislators to report if they or their businesses have taken the benefit of any state tax credits.

"This legislation applies to thousands of elected officeholders across the Commonwealth. Neither they nor the press were provided any kind of meaningful opportunity to provide input into the conference report before it was debated and voted. This glaring lack of sunshine on such an important piece of legislation undermines its legitimacy," the six legislators say, adding: "Virginians want and deserve a government they can trust. Public confidence in their local governments and the General Assembly has suffered after the trial of former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife."

Matt Moran, spokesman for Speaker Howell and the House GOP caucus, said it was not the Speaker but the whole vote, on a vote voice, that closed debate.

"The bill was introduced on the first day of the session and everyone had 45 days to reald it and look at all the proposals to change it and frankly to suggest changes themselves," he said.

Moran said nobody took an opportunity as either a House or Senate bill came up for a vote to propose amendments from the floor, as is a legisaltor's right.

The bill passed 92-0.

Of the six who asked the Governor to amend the bill, only Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke did not vote for the measure. He has informed the clerk that while he was recorded as not voting, he intended to vote against it.

The other five delegates writing to the governor were Ken Plum, Marcus Simon, Patrick Hope, Scott Surovell and Rob Krupicka, all of Northern Virginia and Roanoke's Sam Rasoul.


 



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