January 8, 2014

Yes Virginia, There Will Be Ethics Reform

Holland & Knight Political Law Blog
Christopher DeLacy

As the 2014 session of the Virginia General Assembly begins today and Terry McAuliffe is sworn in as Virginia's 72nd Governor on January 11, ethics reform is sure to be on the agenda. The only question is whether comprehensive ethics reform will be considered by the legislature or if ethics reform will be limited to executive-only actions by the Governor. 

Virginia currently stands out among the states in having what is primarily a no-limit, disclosure-only, gift regime, but it is unclear if legislators are sufficiently motivated to enact new rules more in line with other states. Governor-elect McAuliffe has proposed a $100 gift limit for himself, and his immediate family as well as a ban on any gifts over $50 to himself or his family from lobbyists, those who have retained lobbyists, or anyone with business before the Commonwealth or involved in an active state procurement - two proposals he can accomplish without the approval of the General Assembly.  However, the Governor-elect, as well as several members of the General Assembly, is also advocating for more sweeping reforms including the establishment of an independent ethics agency.  This type of change, along with gift limits for the legislative branch, will require action in the General Assembly. 

House majority leader, Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), and the House minority leader, David Toscano (D-Charlottesville), recently announced an agreement on ethics reform that includes a $250 gift cap, enhanced gift disclosure (including requiring the disclosure of gifts to family members), the establishment of a State Ethics Advisory Commission, and mandatory ethics training for elected officials.

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