Assembly passes new ethics rules for members
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.