Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Deadline Withdrawn on New Ethics Rules

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Deadline Withdrawn on New Ethics Rules

Article excerpt

By Ron Jenkins

Associated Press

The battle over ethics is likely to be mainly in the courtroom next year, but debate over lobbyist expenditures goes on at the Oklahoma Capitol.

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has decided against trying to meet a Feb. 2 deadline to come up with new ethics rules, pending a ruling in a Oklahoma Supreme Court lawsuit.

However, the commission plans to continue working on revisions of state law governing conduct of legislators and other public officials in the area of gifts and gratuities.

That was the main rub between legislators and Ethics Commission members earlier this year.

For awhile, the commission considered a ban on legislators and others receiving anything of value from lobbyists _ the so-called "no-cup-of-coffee" rule.

Commissioners eventually opted for a rule requiring public disclosure of all gifts, but with a major difference from the ethics law now in effect.

The change would have required legislators to disclose expenditures by lobbyists _ not the lobbyists.

The Legislature did not go along with that, instead putting the onus of reporting back on lobbyists when lawmakers rejected the ethics proposals and rewrote them in the form of statutes.

Lawmakers' authority to do that was the subject of oral arguments last month before the Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on whether it will take jurisdiction in the case.

The commission is accusing lawmakers of stripping the agency of what it contends is its exclusive constitutional authority to make rules and prosecute violations in civil cases involving ethics.

As the situation stands now, legislators will continue to operate under the old ethics law, which requires lobbyists to report expenditures on lawmakers above a specified amount.

In addition to the lawsuit, the fact that 1993 is not an election year played in the decision of the commission not to wage a fight on new ethics rules.

The thinking is that legislators are more likely to go along with changes they don't particularly like if they are facing reelection. …

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