Nationwide numbers

A snapshot of how state ethics agencies compare

By

 Updated:

23 states have an independent commission that regulates conduct of state legislators – such as conflicts of interest, abuse of office, post-term employment restrictions.

  • AR, CA, KS, LA, ME, MO, MN, NE, OK, TX (10 states)
    (this subset also oversees personal financial disclosure and campaign finance)
  • AL, CT, FL, HI, KY, MA, MS, NV, OR, PA, RI, WV, WI (13 states)
    (this subset also oversees personal financial disclosure)

27 states have no independent entity that regulates conduct of state legislators

HOWEVER, 9 of those 27 states have independent commissions that regulate personal financial disclosure laws and campaign finance laws for legislators

  • AK, GA, MT, NJ, TN, WA (6 states)
    (this subset oversees both aspects of disclosure)
  • DE, MD (2 states)
    (this subset only oversees personal financial disclosure)
  • IA (1 state)
    (this subset only oversees campaign finance disclosure)

AND, 18 of those 27 states have no independent commissions to oversee conduct or disclosure laws for legislators

  • IN, IL, MI*, NY, NC, OH, SC (7 states)
    (this subset has independent entities set up that DO NOT oversee legislators; campaign disclosure for these state is overseen by elections divisions)
  • AZ (SOS), CO (SOS), ID (SOS), NH (SOS), NM (SOS), UT (AG), VA (AG), WY (AG) (8 states)
    (this subset has no independent entities set up to over see conduct or disclosure for anyone; disclosure for these states is overseen by Secretary of State offices, often times the elections divisions; other ethics laws may be administered by Secretary of State offices and Attorneys General)
  • ND, SD, VT (3 states) and MI
    (this subset has NO formal ethics laws covering conduct of legislators)

*MI also does not have formal ethics laws for legislators beyond some campaign disclosure.

Survey Answers

On the books (of 32 outside agencies surveyed)

6 states DO NOT have violations of ethics statutes punishable by incarceration

  • Florida, Hawaii, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee

2 states DO have ethics agency and powers provided for in constitution

  • Oklahoma, Rhode Island

Staff and budget (of 32 outside agencies surveyed)

10 states DID NOT approve budgets for ethics agencies exceeding rate of inflation (7%) throughout the years 1997 to 2000.

  • Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, West Virginia
  • 2 of those had negative budgets over three years: Missouri, Montana

13 state agencies reported ratios of more than 1,000 "subjects" of the ethics laws - legislators, public employees, political appointees, etc. - per agency staff member

  • Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia

Autonomy of commission members (of 32 outside agencies surveyed)

12 states DO give the legislature ability to appoint one or more members commissions

  • Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee

17 states DO give the legislature confirmation/recommendation involvement

  • Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia

3 states DO NOT give the legislature involvement in appointing commission members

  • California, Hawaii, Massachusetts

Disclosure oversight (of 31 outside agencies that collect outside interest disclosures)

2 state agencies DO NOT enforce filing deadlines for outside interest disclosures

  • Montana, West Virginia

6 state agencies DO NOT have audit authority for outside interest disclosures

  • Florida, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee

Disclosure oversight (of 17 outside agencies that collect campaign finance disclosures)

All state agencies DO have power to enforce filing deadlines for campaign disclosures
All state agencies DO have audit authority for campaign disclosures

Lobbying of the legislature (of 32 outside agencies surveyed)

6 state agencies DO NOT oversee lobbyist registration for the legislature

  • Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, Rhode Island

Conduct oversight (of 23 outside agencies that oversee conduct)

All state agencies overseeing conduct oversee conflict of interest provision
2 state agencies DO NOT oversee abuse of power provision

  • California, Minnesota

8 state agencies DO NOT oversee a nepotism provision

  • Arkansas, California, Maine, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, Hawaii, West Virginia

3 state agencies DO NOT oversee honoraria provision

  • Minnesota, Mississippi, West Virginia

1 state agency DOES NOT oversee gifts provision

  • Mississippi

5 state agencies DO NOT over see post-term employment provision

  • Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wisconsin

Investigation powers (of 32 outside agencies surveyed)

2 state agencies CANNOT initiate an investigation OR investigate anonymous complaint

  • Florida, West Virginia

1 state agency DOES NOT have subpoena power

  • Alabama

Enforcement powers (of 32 outside ethics agencies surveyed)

3 state agencies DO NOT have the power to levy fines directly upon legislators

  • Delaware (only Delaware can recommend fine), Florida, Mississippi

1 state agency DOES have power to prosecute legislators criminally for violation laws

  • Nebraska

6 state agencies CANNOT recommend criminal prosecution (25 others can recommend)

  • Florida, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia

1 state agency DOES have the power remove legislators from office

  • Rhode Island

20 state agencies CANNOT recommend removal from office (11 others can recommend)

  • Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington

Opinions and investigative findings (of 32 outside agencies surveyed)

All 32 state agencies DO issue advisory opinions
14 state agencies DO NOT publish legislator names in advisory opinions

  • Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, West Virginia

7 state agencies DO NOT have advisory opinions on the Web

  • California, Georgia, Maine, Montana, Tennessee, West Virginia

6 state agencies DO NOT have binding investigative findings

  • Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Mississippi

All state agencies publish legislator names in binding investigative findings
18 state agencies DO NOT have investigative findings on the Web

  • Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia

Actual findings for filing violations (of 32 outside agencies surveyed)

3 state agencies HAVE NOT issued a finding for violation of filing requirements between 1995 and 2000

  • Connecticut, Pennsylvania, West Virginia

Actual findings for conduct violations (of 32 outside agencies surveyed)

12 state agencies HAVE NOT issued a finding for violation of conduct laws between 1995 and 2000

  • Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin

Meetings (of 32)

14 state agencies have less than one public meeting per month

  • Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin

19 state agencies DO NOT have meeting minutes on the Web

  • Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin

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