Time to re­form govern­ment

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) re­cently un­veiled a se­ries of sweep­ing ethics re­form pro­pos­als to tar­get con­flicts of in­ter­est and cor­rup­tion among state of­fi­cials, in­crease trans­parency and pub­lic ac­cess to state govern­ment, and re­form the county liquor board nom­i­nat­ing process fol­low­ing a string of fraud and bribery scan­dals. In ad­di­tion to these ethics-re­lated pro­pos­als, the gov­er­nor said he will again push to end par­ti­san ger­ry­man­der­ing and fi­nally en­sure free and fair elec­tions for all Mary­lan­ders through non­par­ti­san re­dis­trict­ing re­form.

These an­nounce­ments come in the wake of for­mer, cur­rent and prospec­tive mem­bers of the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly, as well as lo­cal of­fi­cials, be­ing in­dicted on fed­eral and state charges in con­nec­tion to their pub­lic or elected po­si­tion, par­tic­u­larly in neigh­bor­ing Prince Ge­orge’s County.

“Mary­land has not had com­pre­hen­sive ethics re­forms in 15 years, and Mary­lan­ders are now ask­ing how many more pub­lic of­fi­cials have to be in­dicted be­fore we are fi­nally go­ing to take the ac­tions nec­es­sary to clean up this mess,” Ho­gan said. “To­day, we are an­nounc­ing our In­tegrity in Govern­ment Ini­tia­tive, which is a multi-faceted ef­fort to strengthen and toughen our state ethics laws in or­der to re­store the pub­lic’s trust in our state govern­ment and to fi­nally bring some trans­parency, ac­count- abil­ity and fair­ness to An­napo­lis.”

Ho­gan has pledged to hold all of state govern­ment to the high­est eth­i­cal stan­dards. From the start, the Ho­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion has taken ac­tion to root out cor­rup­tion across the state, in­clud­ing part­ner­ing with fed­eral law en­force­ment agen­cies in an ex­ten­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices that re­sulted in 80 in­dict­ments of cor­rec­tions of­fi­cers, state em­ploy­ees and in­mates.

Ho­gan’s In­tegrity in Govern­ment Ini­tia­tive in­cludes:

• Pub­lic In­tegrity Act of 2017, which places re­stric­tions on both the ex­ec­u­tive and leg­isla­tive branches to elim­i­nate con­flicts of in­ter­est. The pro­posal pro­hibits leg­is­la­tors from push­ing or ef­fect­ing leg­is­la­tion that di­rectly ben­e­fits their em­ployer or a busi­ness they own, pro­hibits ex­ec­u­tive branch staff and leg­isla­tive staff from lob­by­ing for one year af­ter they leave state ser­vice, and pro­hibits any in­di­vid­ual em­ployed by a lob­by­ing firm from be­ing ap­pointed to a state board or com­mis­sion. This leg­is­la­tion also re­forms cur­rent ethics over­sight in the state to give the State Ethics Com­mis­sion over­sight over all elected of­fi­cials and regis­tered lob­by­ists and con­sul­tants.

• Leg­isla­tive Trans­parency Act of 2017, which makes key re­forms to open up state govern­ment and use tech­nol­ogy to make the leg­isla­tive process more ac­ces­si­ble to cit­i­zens. The pro­posal re­quires that all meet­ings of the Gen­eral As­sem­bly be live streamed.

• Liquor Board Re­form Act of 2017, which will re­move county po­lit­i­cal party cen­tral com­mit­tees from the nom­i­nat­ing process. It re­quires the county’s se­na­tors to sub­mit a for­mal nom­i­na­tion, sub­ject to over­sight from the State Ethics Com­mis­sion.

• Re­dis­trict­ing Re­form Act of 2017, to in­sti­tute a non­par­ti­san re­dis­trict­ing process to en­sure free and fair elec­tions in Mary­land and stop ger­ry­man­der­ing.

“I strongly be­lieve that we must do what­ever it takes to re­store hon­esty and in­tegrity to our state cap­i­tal, to en­sure that the best in­ter­ests of Mary­land’s cit­i­zens are be­ing rep­re­sented fairly and hon­estly, and that the voices of the peo­ple we rep­re­sent are fi­nally be­ing heard,” Ho­gan said. “The peo­ple of Mary­land are sick and tired of pol­i­tics as usual, and they are com­pletely fed up with the sta­tus quo. The time for ac­tion is now. The time to fi­nally clean up the mess in An­napo­lis is now. The time to re­store in­tegrity to our state cap­i­tal is now.”

We agree and hope these pro­pos­als pass.

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