A rundown of new state ethics legislation



There’s a flurry of recent activity in state capitals regarding financial-disclosure laws, a subject of ongoing scrutiny by the Center.

Idaho, which consistently sits at the bottom of the Center’s States of Disclosure rankings — a state-by-state evaluation of financial-disclosure laws — has moved one step closer to becoming the 48th state to pass such a law for public officials.

The Senate State Affairs Committee in Idaho just unanimously moved a bill that would require state officials and candidates to fill out forms disclosing employment information, income, real estate, and other financial interests. As it stands now, Idaho state officials are only required to disclose information that an outside legal authority deems “a potential conflict of interest.”

Michigan and Vermont are currently the only other two states with no such laws, though Michiganders can’t say they haven’t tried. In Michigan, the House passed a bill on March 25 that would require officials and their spouses to disclose employment information, officer and director positions, real estate, assets, and liabilities. But ethics enthusiasts in Michigan probably know better than to start celebrating — a similar proposal was circulated in the state legislature last session and died in the Senate.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for ethics changes (for better or worse) in your state. A brief roundup of some of the more significant proposals:

Alabama — Gov. Bob Riley proposed sweeping changes that would, among other things, give the Ethics Commission subpoena power. But another bill, sponsored by Sen. Lowell Barron, seeks to place a six-month time limit on the commission’s ability to investigate complaints. The commission could request an extension if more time is needed, but ultimately, according to the commission’s director, the time limit would limit the body’s ability to properly follow through with complaints.

Massachusetts — Taking a cue from Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposed ethics changes earlier this year, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo introduced a major ethics overhaul package that would give the State Ethics Commission a wider range of authorities and increase fines for violators. The bill passed the House on March 26 and now heads to the Senate, where it will likely face some resistance.

OregonA new bill that passed the Senate and is expected to pass the House will remove the requirement that officials disclose the names of their relatives, namely spouses and dependent children.

Keep checking back for updates. And keep an eye out for our new States of Disclosure rankings later this year.

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