Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gallego seeks to eliminate self-interest with elected officials



STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix (District 16), is working to curb elected officials’ self interest and make them do their job by serving Arizonans instead.

Gallego has introduced a bill that would make self-serving legislation more difficult for elected officials in Arizona to pursue and is proposing a rule change in order to keep state legislators from introducing bills that would result in personal financial benefit.

“Government is paid for by the people, so the people have a right to transparency to the greatest extent,” Gallego said. “This bill furthers that goal by ensuring that elected officials work for the people, not for themselves.”

HB 2797 would add to the definition of “remote interests,” which are exceptions to conflicts of interest, to include that an elected official may not introduce a bill affecting property they own worth $1,000 or more. Additionally, current statute states that an elected official must have a class of at least 10 people with interest in the legislation in order for it not to be in self-interest. HB 2797 would change that requirement to a class of 50 people.

A case of conflict of interest that the bill addresses was the local controversy with Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio’s financial interest in putting the Loop 202 extension on the Gila River Reservation. (Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2010/01/31/20100131diciccio0131.html)

Gallego is also seeking a rule change in the legislature. Currently, a legislator or member of the legislator’s household needs to belong to a class of people of which the majority would be affected by the bill. Gallego’s proposed rule change would require that the legislator or household member be part of a class of at least 50 members, that the sponsor of the bill has no more interest in it than other members of the class, and that there is minimal interest by the sponsor of the legislation. The rule change also prohibits voting on or taking part in any way on legislation for which the legislator has a conflict of interest.

A recent example where the rule change would apply could be to Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Gilbert (District 21), who over several sessions has introduced bills to benefit student tuition organizations, one of which he is the executive director. Yarbrough has consistently denied any self interest, despite his financial gains from the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization. (Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2009/05/19/20090519yarbrough0519.html)

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