Committee Passes New Ethics Rules For House
January 28, 2015 — TheStatehouseFile.com
INDIANAPOLIS – The House Ethics Committee on Tuesday approved new rules that require lawmakers to be more transparent about their financial ties.
The rules are also meant to prevent conflict of interest problems like one that occurred last year when then-Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, allegedly lobbied privately for a bill that helped him financially.
The new rules also include a preamble to the code of ethics that further states the needs for high moral and ethical standards in order to avoid conflicts of interests between personal interests and public duties.
The new rules require that each representative reveal their personal financial interest as well as that of their close relatives but the rules don’t define “close relative” and some lawmakers worried that may not be easily defined. In some areas of state law, close relatives can include everyone from great-grandparents, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
The rules are part of a larger effort to crack down on ethics issues at the Statehouse following several problems that also included accusations against former state Superintendent Tony Bennett and a former top aid at the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Turner is accused of using his position to kill a construction ban against nursing home businesses. Later, a company that he and his family had ownership interests in benefited from the elimination of the ban. Turner later resigned from his position, saying he wanted to pursue mission opportunities.
The new rules say that any member that knowingly has direct “personal or pecuniary interest” in a legislative matter is prevented from authoring, sponsoring or voting on it. The individual is also encouraged to avoid any advocacy of the matter.
The standard does not apply to certain bills or discussions such as the budget. In those circumstances, members would be required to publicly disclose their interests and involvements.
The ethics guidelines also detail the process by which members that are accused of having a conflict of interest, violation, or a complaint against them are further investigated.
The House Ethics Committee passed the rules 6-0 and they now move to the full House for consideration.