State ethics rules — April 27 edition

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The Center provides you with another round-up of recent action on state ethics policies, including a new bill in Tennessee that would fold an independent ethics commission into a larger government body. As part of our ongoing states coverage, we dig through the news for any potential changes, so you don’t have to.

Earlier this month, a bill in Tennessee proposed closing the state’s ethics commission to save money in the current economic climate. The responsibilities of the commission, which was created in 2006 as an independent watchdog to oversee ethics compliance, would be folded into the Registry of Election, a move that would reportedly save the state about $338,000. But late last week, Gov. Phil Bredesen announced his support for maintaining the independent ethics commission.

In Wisconsin, discussions are underway in the legislature to improve the state’s transparency. The state’s current policy allows public officials to receive notification of who asks to see their financial disclosure information — a procedure that also prevents the filings from being easily accessible online. The state’s Government Accountability Board has suggested changing this decades-old policy to allow the public to search for records online, which would mean no notification for public officials.

And to provide an update on our last state ethics post, Governor Bob Riley’s proposed ethics reform continues to sit on the agenda of the House Judiciary Committee in Alabama. But Oregon made a move on its bill this month: Lawmakers no longer have to disclose the names of extended relatives or submit quarterly disclosure reports (no other state requires such a high frequency of disclosure).

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