Byline: David Steves The Register-Guard
SALEM - The House approved of an overhaul Monday of state ethics laws for public officials, government employees and lobbyists.
The 56-2 vote sends House Bill 3328 to the Senate.
Rep. Linda Flores, R-Clackamas, said the provisions clarify the law.
Lawmakers praised a proposed change that would allow spouses and other relatives of public officials to receive food, lodging and travel when the official is participating in an event that bears a relationship to his or her duties.
Flores said the change would allow firefighters, for example, to bring their spouses to benefit dinners or to accept cookies from grateful citizens.
But Janice Thompson of the Portland-based Money in Politics Research Action Project said the change could extend far beyond cookies and appreciation for the spouses of volunteer firefighters.
"They could be taken to Hawaii, too," Thompson said.
She was referring to a recent ethics investigation that found a lobbyist and several lawmakers in violation of state ethics law because spouses as well as lawmakers received lobbyist-paid trips to Hawaii and Palm Springs. The state ethics panel's findings …