Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Interim Committee Agrees on Ethics Commission Bill

The Legislature's interim committee on Courts, Corrections & Justice on Tuesday unanimously endorsed a bill that would create an 11-member ethics commission appointed by the Legislature and the governor.

On first glance it appears the Ethics Commission would be set up similar to the Judicial Standards Commission. The body would have the power to subpoena witnesses in ethics complaints regarding state officials or employees and determine whether complaints are valid.

If the complaint involved allegations of criminal violations, the information would be turned over to the state attorney general or a district attorney. Other complaints deemed valid would go to the Legislature if the complaint pertains to a lawmaker or elected state official.

Like Judicial Standards, all meetings pertaining to specific investigations are held behind closed doors and there's even criminal penalties for those who leak documents.

In past legislative sessions, bills to create ethics commissions have stalled. We'll see how far this one gets.