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Thursday, March 25, 2010 - 1:10pm

Ethics Bill Passes House Panel

An ethics reform bill passed out a of house committee today. It’s intended to address issues that came out of the Speaker Richardson scandal earlier this year, but critics say it doesn’t do enough.

Under Republican House Speaker David Ralston’s bill, lobbyists will have to more frequently report how much they’re spending on lawmakers.

It also creates a new process for people to file a complaint against officials abusing their power.

Speaker Ralston says that should deter another scenario which had the former house speaker resigning from his position after the public learned he allegedly had an affair with a lobbyist whose bill he pushed.

"It will put in our conflict of interest law a provision that prohibits officials from using their position to threaten people, intimidate and coerce people and I think that’s a major improvement in our law," says Ralston.

The bill also bans electronic communications between lobbyists and lawmakers while bills are being debated in committee and on the floor, and makes lobbyists pay a $300 registration fee.

But what it doesn’t do is set a cap on how much lobbyists can spend on lawmakers, nor does it make everyone disclose that information. Independent Representative Rusty Kidd who was once a veteran lobbyist at the capitol, says the bill doesn’t address the real issue.

"The true problem is the people who aren’t registered and that might be the corporate exec," says Kidd. "He flies in and pays an expensive dinner and flies out, no lobbyist is there and where in here does it say that has to be disclosed?"

The bill has been attached to a senate bill that crossed over to the house last year, so it does not need to be voted in the house today to make the Crossover Day cut.

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