STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today Tea Party legislators blocked a House Rule change, proposed by Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix (District 16) that would curb conflict of interest and increase transparency in the Arizona House of Representatives.
The proposal was blocked by a procedural tactic. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee, where it will likely languish until the end of the session.
“We should have voted on this today and it should have been an easy decision” Gallego said. “This rules change was an efficient way for the House to hold itself to a higher standard. We should embrace every opportunity to increase transparency and accountability in the government. ”
The proposed change would tighten the definition of personal financial interest for legislators. The current version of the House Rule 35, which pertains to personal financial interest, is vague. This allows members to vote on bills even if they have a direct financial interest. The rule change requires a member with minimal financial interest in something that is the topic of legislation to declare that interest and refrain from voting on it.
Gallego introduced a bill this session that would have made it more difficult for legislators to introduce self-serving legislation. HB 2797 would add to the definition of “remote interests,” which are exceptions to conflicts of interest, that an elected official may not introduce a bill affecting property they own worth $1,000 or more. Additionally, current statute states that the proposed legislation must affect at least 10 people in order to show that it is not self-interest. HB 2797 would have changed that requirement to a group 50 people. This legislation also was blocked. Gallego’s proposed rule change this week will also include the 50 person requirement.