Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gallego proposes House Rules change to increase transparency, eliminate conflict of interest for elected officials

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix (District 16), will propose a House Rules change aimed at curbing conflict of interest and increasing transparency in the Arizona House of Representatives, this week.

“The people of Arizona demand and deserve a more transparent government,” Gallego said. “This rule change will prevent representatives from voting on bills if they have a financial interest in it. Arizonans should know that legislators are supporting bills that are in the best interest of the state, not in the best interest of their own pocketbooks. ”

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.

“Transparency is something that we must continue to improve. This rule change promotes better, more accountable government,” Gallego said. “It is necessary because the Tea Party-controlled legislature has stymied too many attempts to make government more transparent.”

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 was blocked. Gallego’s proposed rule change this week will also include the 50 person requirement.

Gallego also was referring to the amendments to HB 2603 and HB 2642, which were designed to increase transparency. The amendment to HB 2603 would have changed financial reporting requirements for legislators by expanding the definition of what a “gift” is to a legislator, by increasing the fines and criminal violations made by those who do not file disclosure reports and allow registration and public access via the Secretary of State’s website.

The amendment to HB 2642, a lobbying expenditure bill, which would have required legislators to make more specific disclosures on “scholarships” for conferences they receive and would require them to make financial disclosure reports available through the Secretary of State website. Additionally, the amendment would strengthen lobbyist registration requirements.

Both amendments were blocked.


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