Assem­bly passes new ethics rules for mem­bers

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS -

The Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly has unan­i­mously passed the first ma­jor up­date to ethics rules in a decade, send­ing the mea­sure to Gov. Larry Ho­gan for his promised sig­na­ture.

The leg­is­la­tion was given fi­nal pas­sage Satur­day by the House of Del­e­gates. Af­ter Ho­gan signs it, the law will re­quire ad­di­tional con­flict-of-in­ter­est dis­clo­sures by law­mak­ers and put new lim­its on how they can ad­vo­cate for busi­nesses. It will also cre­ate a new cit­i­zen ad­vi­sory board to rec­om­mend ways to fur­ther tighten ethics laws for law­mak­ers.

Af­ter Ho­gan signs the mea­sure — a rewrit­ten ver­sion of leg­is­la­tion he pro­posed — the new law will re­quire ad­di­tional con­flict-of-in­ter­est dis­clo­sures by law­mak­ers and set a few new lim­its on how they can ad­vo­cate for busi­nesses.

None of the changes would ad­dress the cir­cum­stances of re­cently in­dicted leg­is­la­tors be­ing pros­e­cuted by state and fed­eral author­i­ties in three sep­a­rate cases.

On Fri­day, Demo­cratic state Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks pleaded not guilty to fed­eral wire fraud charges that al­leged he ac­cepted cash pay­ments in ex­change for try­ing to help a real es­tate de­vel­oper se­cure fund­ing for a project. In Jan­uary, the state pros­e­cu­tor charged Baltimore Demo­crat Gary Brown with cam­paign fi­nance vi­o­la­tions days be­fore Brown was to be sworn in as a del­e­gate. And just as the ses­sion be­gan, for­mer Prince Ge­orge’s County Del. Wil­liam Cam­pos, a Demo­crat, pleaded guilty in a cor­rup­tion case that author­i­ties said in­volved cash pay­ments in ex­change for ad­vanc­ing leg­is­la­tion re­lated to liquor li­censes. In March, for­mer Prince Ge­orge’s Demo­cratic Del. Michael Vaughn was in­dicted in the same case. Vaughn had re­signed from the House less than an hour be­fore this year’s ses­sion be­gan, cit­ing health is­sues.

Ho­gan, a Repub­li­can, pushed for more sweep­ing ethics rules that would have brought leg­isla­tive ethics en­force­ment un­der the ex­ec­u­tive branch. Af­ter the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice ad­vised that that might vi­o­late the state con­sti­tu­tion’s sep­a­ra­tion-of-pow­ers clause, the Demo­crat­i­cled Gen­eral Assem­bly in­stead up­dated the ex­ist­ing law.

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