Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

ETHICS REFORMERS PITCH IDEAS GOV.-ELECT SENDS 'THE RIGHT SIGNAL' Series: LEGISLATIVE ETHICS

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

ETHICS REFORMERS PITCH IDEAS GOV.-ELECT SENDS 'THE RIGHT SIGNAL' Series: LEGISLATIVE ETHICS

Article excerpt

Efforts to improve the ethics climate are an uphill battle.

In June, state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Luzerne County, who has described the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission as part of the state's "broken" ethics system, reintroduced legislation to replace it with a Public Integrity Commission.

The new commission ostensibly would have greater independence because law school deans and prosecutors would have a voice in the appointment of members. Mr. Yudichak also would give a broader law- enforcement role to the new agency, describing it in legislation as a "statewide criminal justice agency" that would issue periodic reports on corruption.

As it did before, the bill to create the Public Integrity Commission died.

This fall, before leaving office, Rep. Jesse White, D-Washington County, proposed legislation that would have required more expansive disclosure of officials' oil and gas holdings on the statements of financial interest that must be filed each year.

He said he wrote the bill to shed more light on municipal officials' ties to Marcellus Shale, but it potentially would have affected legislators, too. The proposal went nowhere.

Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Penn Hills, couldn't get any traction last year on his proposal to limit legislators' outside income. Mr. DeLuca says the restriction is needed because other employment that can cause conflicts of interest shouldn't distract legislators, whose jobs officially are full time.

In a statement, Mr. Yudichak said, "Ethics reform, from legislative gift bans to lobbyist disclosure, will continue to be important issues before the General Assembly. On a personal level, I will continue to work with like-minded legislators and advocacy groups to advance the cause of accountability in state government."

Mr. DeLuca said he'll continue pushing to limit lawmakers' outside income. …

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