State ethics update — May 22

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The Center provides our biweekly round-up of recent action on ethics policies in the states. We’re digging through the news for any potential changes, so you don’t have to.

We’ve been following the slow, quiet death of ethics reform in Alabama for several weeks now. Last week, the end was reached — the session concluded without passing legislation to give the ethics commission subpoena power and limit lobbyist gifts.

But ethics reform is making a comeback in Texas, where a House committee in mid-May approved the toughest ethics laws in six years. The bills, which await a final vote in the House, would regulate corporate campaign contributions and lobbyist influence. On May 18, the Senate tacked on an additional provision to an ethics bill that would require legislators to disclose business relationships with the state government. The last time ethics legislation passed in Texas was 2003.

The Massachusetts Senate approved an ethics reform bill this month that cracks down on bribery and violations of the state’s lobbying laws. But critics say the bill could actually weaken the state’s ethics commission by shifting some of its power to the Division of Administrative Law Appeals.

And the New York Commission on Public Integrity was caught in the middle of scandal this month when reports surfaced that the executive director was leaking information to a member of the former Spitzer administration. This week Governor David Patterson announced his plan to create an entirely new commission that will “restore the public’s confidence in our government.”

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