For a couple of years now, the Legislative Ethics Commission has been proposing some needed changes to the ethics law. Unfortunately, the proposals have been ignored repeatedly by the General Assembly.
But that hasn't stopped the commission from trying again. It recently sent the Legislative Research Commission a set of 16 recommendations for consideration in the 2011 session. A few of the proposals are technical. Several are substantive in nature. But all of are sensible and deserve approval.
If the recommended changes are enacted by the General Assembly:
■ Lobbyists and their employers would no longer be able to spend up to $100 annually buying food and drinks for individual legislators. They could still entertain groups of lawmakers, but not individuals in one-on-one situations.
■ Legislative candidates would be treated the same as lawmakers in regard to having contact with lobbyists.
■ Lobbyists and their employers would be prohibited from contributing to legislators or legislative candidates during regular General Assembly sessions.
■ Lobbyists would be prohibited from directly soliciting campaign contributions for legislators or legislative candidates.
■ Lobbyists and their employers would no longer be allowed to pay for out-of-state travel, food or lodging by lawmakers.
■ Lawmakers' spouses would be prohibited from lobbying.
■ Legislators would be prohibited from sending out mass mailings at public expense for 60 days prior to an election.
These are some of the more substantive changes recommended by the commission. They make perfect sense, and the rest of the recommendations are equally sensible.
In 2011, the General Assembly needs to listen to its Legislative Ethics Commission rather than continuing to ignore it.