September 17, 2014

Lawmakers Call For Action On Gift Ban Bills Before Session Ends

As the end of the 2013-14 legislative session nears, the Government Reform Caucus is calling for immediate action on measures that would strengthen state law regarding gifts to public officials.
Caucus co-chairs State Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin) and Rep. George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland) and members of the bipartisan, bicameral group said the bills should be a top priority during the remaining days of the legislative calendar.
“We have been very patient, but time is running out to move these bills through the legislative process. This is a no-brainer good government issue that every elected official should support,” said Sen. Teplitz, the founder of the caucus. “The Government Reform Caucus has been advocating for these measures all year because they would improve government transparency and reduce outside influences.”
“Requiring greater disclosure and placing stricter limitations on gifts is a simple and effective way to hold ourselves accountable to Pennsylvania taxpayers,” said Rep. Dunbar. “There is no excuse for holding up this legislation. These bills deserve to be brought to the Senate and House floors for debate and vote.”
Rep. Dunbar has authored legislation supported by the caucus to amend the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act with regard to financial disclosures. Specifically, House Bill 1872 would establish new gift and transportation/lodging/hospitality reporting requirements as follows:
-- Any gift valued at over $50 must be reported (current threshold is $250); and
-- Any expense for transportation/lodging/hospitality valued at over $100 must be reported (current threshold is $650).
Sen. Teplitz is a co-sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, Senate Bill 750, which is sponsored by Senators John Eichelberger (R- Blair) and Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia).
Both bills, which also encourage voluntary reporting below the new thresholds, are pending in their respective chambers' State Government Committees.
In June, Sen. Teplitz testified in support of the bills before the House State Government Committee, of which Dunbar is a member, following an April press conference by the caucus urging action on the bills.  
Caucus members have emphasized that they are open to other approaches to this and other reform issues as well, but that meaningful action must occur as soon as possible.
The Government Reform Caucus consists of approximately 40 senators and representatives from both parties.  Since its inception in March 2013, the caucus has met regularly to develop and promote legislation to reform state government.