Bill Engle, writing for the Palladium-Item has an article with Richmond-area lawmakers reacting to a newspaper sponsored proposal concerning lobbying reform (Speaker of the House, Pat Bauer had some lobbying reform proposals recently as well, I’m not sure if that’s related to this newspaper push):
# Prohibit legislators from accepting any gift more than $50 in value from a registered lobbyist;
# Require that lobbyists disclose the value of all goods and services offered to individual legislators or groups of lawmaker;
# Prohibit legislators from accepting gifts from businesses, organizations or individuals who do business with the state;
# Prohibit legislators from accepting meals, tickets to athletic games or other events or other gifts valued at more than $50 from state universities or colleges.
The Star also advocates that former legislators may not work for a registered lobbyist until one year after they leave office.
I don’t have a problem with any of these proposals, but I also am not convinced that our State House is rife with any great deal of corruption. Lawmakers do themselves no favors when they take personal offense at lobbying reform suggestions. Getting prickly about proposed reforms just lends to the perception that there is a problem.
Of these proposed reforms, I think the “cooling off” period is probably the most important. Making legislators go do something else before they get into the lobbying business would reduce the incentive to go easy on an industry for whom a legislator hopes to lobby. (Our of concern for allowing former legislators to make a living after their out of office, perhaps there could be an exemption for individuals who were lobbyists immediately before they became members of the General Assembly.) I would also suggest some sort of requirement that lawmakers recuse themselves on issues directly related to their employers. The article mentions Tom Saunders being employed by Manatron, a vendor of tax assessment software. (You might remember Manatron as being one of the players in the lawsuit against Rep. Jacque Clements.) I also seem to recall several highly placed legislators being associated with Ivy Tech which has a fair amount of business before the General Assembly.