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Senate Committees Approve Government Ethics Reform Bill

June 23, 2010

On Tuesday, two Senate committees approved legislation to reform laws governing campaign finance, government ethics, and public records.  The Government Ethics and Campaign Reform Act of 2010 was considered as a Committee Substitute for HB 961. The bill will now be heard by the full Senate, possibly as early as today (Wednesday).

If enacted, HB 961 would make the following changes affecting local governments and those local officials serving on State boards and commissions:

  • Expand the public record disclosure requirements for local government personnel files to make public the date and amount of each change in an employee’s salary and the date of each promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in the employee’s position classification. Currently, only the most recent changes are public;
  • Prohibit local elected officials and employees of local government from receiving favors, services, and promises of future employment in exchange for influencing a contract decision. Currently, the prohibition only applies to gifts and rewards;
  • Require courts to allow parties seeking disclosure of public records who substantially prevail in court to recover reasonable attorneys' fees. The court could not assess fees against a governmental unit if the unit acted in reasonable reliance on certain court orders and opinions or a letter or opinion of the Attorney General;
  • Establish a mediation procedure for public records disputes. Mediation would be voluntary before filing a civil action under the public records act, and mandatory after filing a civil action, but the parties could waive it in writing;
  • Provide that it will be a Class I felony to intentionally violate the campaign finance laws prohibiting corporations from providing support to candidates or the laws against making or receiving campaign contributions anonymously or under the name of another person;
  • Require the creation of a database and website providing information about all State grants and contracts with a value of over $10,000;
  • Extend the requirement for members of State boards and commissions to file an annual statement of economic interest to the year following departure from the board or commission;
  • Give the Governor the authority to adopt supplemental ethics standards for appointees to State boards and commissions.

Posted on June 23, 2010 by Karl Knapp