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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution December 17, 2009 Thursday First Replate Edition Reform tops their agenda; 3 candidates for House speaker face daunting challenges this session. The man Republican lawmakers nominate today to be the next speaker of the House is going to have an ugly job from the start. The majority party's choice, the presumptive speaker, will take office after one of the most sensational scandals in recent memory and will have to lead during a budget crisis that is the worst in generations. Gnarly ethics issues and brutal budget cuts will dominate his first months. Three are running: Ways and Means chairman Larry O'Neal of Bonaire, former Judiciary chairman David Ralston of Blue Ridge, and Higher Education chairman Bill Hembree of Winston. The contest comes after the spectacular implosion of Speaker Glenn Richardson (R- Hiram), the once-powerful leader who shocked the state with an admission last month that he attempted suicide. His ex-wife then went on television and said he had an affair with a lobbyist promoting a bill he sponsored. Within days, Richardson said he would resign Jan. 1. And, just like that, ethics has become a major issue for the people vying for Richardson's job. But it's not just ethics. Rank-and-file Republicans say they want someone who will not be just "more of the same." In the past, candidates would spend the weeks before an election glad-handing and behind-the-scenes cajoling for votes. This time, they have spent energy explaining away past issues and professing their fidelity. Three seek the job O'Neal is considered a front runner because of his close ties to fellow Houston County politician Gov. Sonny Perdue, his calm demeanor and steady hand. But his relationship with Perdue --- he was the governor's private lawyer for a time --- and other members of the Republican leadership have also raised questions. O'Neal told a Macon Telegraph reporter that Richardson's affair with the Atlanta Gas Light lobbyist was "common knowledge" yet did nothing that could have prevented the current scandal. He also continues to take heat for pushing through a last-minute tax cut bill in 2005 that personally benefited the governor. O'Neal sent a letter to his Republican colleagues late Tuesday saying an IRS audit in 2007 cleared him of any wrongdoing in the Perdue tax matter and that should clear his name. Ralston, who was stripped of his committee chairmanship after he challenged Richardson for the speakership in 2008, has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to state and federal collectors for delinquent personal income taxes from 1996 to 2005. Ralston said the tax problem stemmed from a dishonest bookkeeper who pleaded guilty to embezzling from him. Hembree is not as well known as O'Neal and Ralston and his district is trending Democratic, meaning he might be vulnerable when he runs for re-election. He ran unopposed in 2008. Hembree, who has became a favorite of social conservatives, could also scare off moderate Republicans. As the caucus seeks a speaker who can rise above the scandal, many have pointed to the influence of lobbyists as a primary concern. The three candidates running to replace Richardson have received numerous gifts from lobbyists, just as current House leaders have, although O'Neal has far outpaced the other two. Lobbyists have spent almost $36,000 on O'Neal since 2005, disclosure reports filed with the State Ethics Commission show. That's more than the top leaders in the Senate received, but considerably less than the current House leadership. So far in 2009, lobbyists have reported spending $6,599 entertaining O'Neal. In March, two lobbyists --- representing Stateside Capital and the Georgia Affordable Housing Coalition --- split the $799 bill to give O'Neal tickets to a concert by Elton John and Billy Joel. Ralston accepted $13,158 in lobbyist gifts since 2005, including $1,396 so far in 2009. In 2007, AT&T spent $831 to take Ralston to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Microsoft spent more than $1,500 on airfare, lodging, food and drink, and ground transportation for Ralston. Disclosure reports do not say where Ralston went. Bill Hembree, received $9,589 in the past five years, including $1,602 in 2009. More than half came from state agencies, mostly football tickets provided by the University System of Georgia and tickets to events at the Georgia World Congress Center, including a monster-truck show and a motocross event. In 2006, Georgia- Pacific gave Hembree $358 tickets to a Bon Jovi concert. Promises of reform In the days since Richardson's announced resignation, all three have campaigned via meetings, telephone conversations and the Internet. All have promised rules changes and ethics reforms. Ralston, in a letter to the caucus Tuesday, reminded his colleagues that he stood nearly alone a year ago in challenging Richardson and that he promised then to end the hawks system that allowed a handful of powerful lawmakers to cast votes in any committee. He also vowed to limit lobbyists' access to him and his office. In an interview --- Ralston was the only candidate to grant one --- Ralston said his GOP colleagues realize what's at stake today. "It took a lot of hard work to win a majority, and I don't think we want to go back and not be able to work on issues that voters sent us down there to work on," he said. "They recognize the only way we do that is to let the people of Georgia know that we're serious about change." Ralston said he's the candidate with a record of fighting to change the current system, back in the days when the other candidates obliged Richardson's heavy hand. O'Neal, a lawyer in Warner Robins, would not return calls from the AJC, but he issued a lengthy multi-point plan for reform . Like Ralston, he pledged to end to the hawk system. He stressed he would disagree with the governor but "without making a spectacle," a reference to Richardson once referring to Perdue's backside in remarks on the House floor. "I will never intentionally embarrass you," he wrote. He stressed he would work for "meaningful ethics reform legislation" this upcoming session. Hembree said he was too busy to speak with the AJC but sent a brief statement that "ethics reform will be essential for us to move forward and I look forward to working with my colleagues to craft the right legislation." In recent e-mail sent out to colleagues, Hembree said, "We cannot afford to continue down the path of talking about family values and ethics reform on the campaign trail but turn a blind eye at the state Capitol. It must end now and it must start in the Speaker's office." How it will work The GOP caucus will convene at 11 a.m. in the House chamber. They will vote for the caucus nominees for speaker and speaker pro tem and will also elect a majority whip. Their choices for speaker and pro tem will then stand for election before the full House when the Legislature returns Jan. 11 for the 2010 session. Candidates for speaker pro tem and majority whip: Speaker pro tem Rep. Jan Jones of Atlanta Rep. Rich Golick of Smyrna Rep. Clay Cox of Lilburn Majority whip Rep. John Lunsford of McDonough Rep. Ed Lindsey of Atlanta Fort Wayne Journal Gazette December 17, 2009 Thursday Final Edition House panel passes ethics update Citizens' arguments for even more stringent guidelines are turned aside The House Rules Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to move forward a bill strengthening the state's ethics and lobbying laws. House Speaker Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, is carrying the bill, which now moves to the House. Lawmakers return Jan. 5. "I believe that we can do some things to get a little more confidence in the system," he told the committee, while noting he doesn't know of any corrupt legislators or lobbyists. Among House Bill 1001's major provisions, it: *Prohibits lawmakers from becoming lobbyists until one year after theof their term. *Lowers the reporting requirement for gifts and meals from lobbyists to lawmakers from $100 to $50. *Bars the governor from fund- raising during a long budget session. Lawmakers already are prohibited. *Prohibits lobbying firms from representing clients with conflicting interests. *Bans businesses holding contracts with the state for more than $100,000 from contributing to some political campaigns. The conflict-of-interest and contractor provisions drew concern from Republicans on the panel, but not enough to stop the bill from moving. Several citizens testified that the bill doesn't go far enough. Brianna Dines, a 20-year-old Indiana University student who heads the student activist group Democracy Matters, encouraged an outright ban on gifts similar to that used in the executive branch. "We think information should be the persuading factor - not dinner and drinks," she said. Rep. Ralph Foley, R-Martinsville, told Dines that lobbyists aren't evil and are simply representing many Hoosiers who can't make it to the Statehouse for themselves. But Dines didn't back down, saying lobbyists should be able to represent those citizens without giving lawmakers sporting tickets or other material gifts. Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, also supported a full ban on gifts, as well as lengthening the cooling- off period for lawmakers to become lobbyists to two years. She also encouraged more timely reporting requirements to the Lobby Registration Commission so that citizens can see what money is being spent during the session - rather than months later - on issues. Los Angeles Times December 17, 2009 Thursday Home Edition CalPERS aims for openness; The state pension fund board backs a measure to require agents who help set up deals to register as lobbyists. The California Public Employees' Retirement System, saying it wanted to be more open and clear a cloud hanging over it, has backed proposed legislation to regulate outside investment managers' use of so-called placement agents to pitch huge private equity deals with the fund. On Wednesday, the pension fund's board endorsed a not-yet-written measure that would require such sales intermediaries to register as lobbyists with the state the same way that the people who lobby the Legislature, the governor's office and other government agencies do. Such lobbyists must disclose regularly the names of their clients and the fees they receive. The proposal got only one dissenting vote on the 13-member board. That came from George Diehr, a Cal State San Marcos business professor and head of the CalPERS investment committee. A registration policy, he argued, might discourage placement agents from operating in California. The agents, he said, can play a useful role helping small private equity funds get a piece of CalPERS' $200-billion portfolio. The proposal, which would have to be drafted as a bill and introduced at the Capitol, also would ban contingency payments that are based on the success of the lobbying effort. The measure, if it became law, would further prohibit lobbyists at CalPERS from making political contributions and limit their gift giving. The lobbyist legislation, along with a placement agent disclosure policy that was approved in May, come in response to a growing inquiry in California that first emerged from a corruption scandal at a New York public pension fund. Since then, some documents released by CalPERS revealed that a former CalPERS board member who became a placement agent, Alfred J.R. Villalobos, was paid more than $70 million for helping a handful of large private equity and real estate investment funds win billions of dollars of business from the pension system over the last decade. In October, CalPERS Chief Executive Anne Stausboll hired an outside law firm to investigate the placement agent payments and whether they influenced the fund's investment decisions. "There's been quite a cloud over the pension industry," Pat Macht, CalPERS' external affairs manager, told the board. "This will provide a level of high confidence that investment decisions are made in an impartial way." The idea of applying state lobbying rules to CalPERS was put forward recently by board President Rob Feckner and two other members, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer and state Controller John Chiang. Registering placement agents as lobbyists "hopefully . . . takes away the greed factor," Feckner said Wednesday. The CalPERS board's recommendation that the state regulate placement agents wasn't the only major issue before the board. The pension fund's poor return on its investments in the last two years has prompted it to seek more contributions from the state and local governments that support it. But to ease the financial strain on its participating governments during the current economic downtown, CalPERS has moved to reduce the payments somewhat. Specifically, it has adopted a statistical technique known as smoothing. This allows CalPERS to spread the way it accounts for its recent, steep investment losses over a longer period of time and repay them over the next 30 years. CalPERS adopted this approach in June to reduce higher payments for local governments, and Wednesday it took the same approach for the state. The administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opposed adopting the technique, to no avail. An aide to Schwarzenegger said the governor opposed reducing the state's pension obligation even though he faces a $21-billion budget shortfall for the spending year that starts July 1. The governor said he would rather hike the state's CalPERS contribution next year by $1 billion to make sure the pension fund has enough cash to meet more of its future obligations, said Greg Beatty of the state Department of Personnel Administration. Missouri Lawyers Media December 17, 2009 Ethics bills multiply as Missouri's legislative session nears This month, numerous lawmakers have proposed bills that they say would fix ethical inadequacies in state government. Several lawmakers said their efforts are also a response to the forced resignations of three lawmakers this year. On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steve Tilley became the latest lawmaker to introduce alterations to regulations on campaign finances, lobbyist reporting requirements and internal house rules. Among other things, Tilley's proposals that he announced this week would: Ban lawmakers from taking meals or gifts from lobbyists; Bar lawmakers from serving as political consultants during a General Assembly term; Force lawmakers to wait a certain amount of time before becoming a lobbyist or taking an executive appointment; Restrict donations that a person can make to an elected official who appoints that person to a board or committee; and Prohibit any entity that has a pending decision before an executive agency or board from donating to the governor. Lobbyists provide tens of thousands of dollars worth of meals, trips and entertainment to public officials every year. While a few Democratic lawmakers proposed lobbyist gift bans in the past, those bills have gone nowhere in the GOP- controlled General Assembly. Several lawmakers also proposed banning legislators from serving as political consultants during the last legislative session. Democrats and some Republicans criticized then-House Speaker Rod Jetton for his dual role as the top Republican in the Missouri House and as a political consultant. When asked why he didn't publicly support or push for those initiatives, Tilley said in a telephone interview that his position on those issues has "been a process. " In particular, he said he became convinced that lobbyist gifts needed to be reigned in after showing articles about his own intake of freebies to his parents. He also said the resignations of former Sen. Jeff Smith and former Reps. Steve Brown and Talibdin El-Amin influenced his decision. "Certainly the spotlight has grown greater on Jeff City," Tilley said. Smith and Brown resigned after pleading guilty to federal charges related to lying to federal investigators about illegal campaign activities during the former's 2004 congressional campaign. El-Amin stepped down after pleading guilty to bribery charges. Earlier this month, Jetton was charged with felony assault on a Sikeston woman. Before the arrest, Jetton - who proclaimed his innocence through an attorney to numerous news outlets - was the subject of a Kansas City Star series about his continued influence as a political consultant after leaving electoral politics. Tilley's ethics package came a day after two other state representatives publicized wide-ranging legislation on the subject. State Reps. Tim Flook, R-Liberty, and Jason Kander, D-Kansas City, proposed a package on Monday that would: Make it a felony to obstruct an investigation from the Missouri Ethics Commission; Force political party committees and political action committees to donate only to candidate committees. The bill would also make it a felony to transfer money through committees as a way of concealing the original donor; Encompass the promising of legislative action for campaign contribution under state prohibitions against "pay to play" laws; Prompt political consultants who do work for corporations to register as lobbyists; and Prohibit individuals from being treasurers or deputy treasurers for multiple committees. "It's been my personal experience that most of the people you deal with are very honest and work very hard to follow the rules," said Flook, who is an attorney. "But there [are] a few who will at times bend the rules. Or there may be conduct that looks bad, even though it doesn't necessarily violate the rules. " In a statement, House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence, said instituting campaign finance limits was a "key omission" from Tilley's proposal. LeVota and several other lawmakers have sponsored legislation this session to place limits on donations. Tilley said that LeVota's statement lacked credibility, because he didn't criticize Flook or Kander for not including campaign finance limits in their bill. Earlier this month, Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, proposed a legislative package that would, among other things, outlaw campaign donations from lobbyists during the legislative session. Kander, Flook and Tilley said they had questions about whether the lobbyist donation ban was constitutional. A judge struck down an in-session fundraising ban in 2007, noting that the measure failed to address free speech issues. Ultimately, Kander said that the legislation put forward this session would need to be continually tweaked in the coming General Assembly sessions. The Montgomery Advertiser (Alabama) December 17, 2009 Thursday Barron issues bill prohibiting practice After Gov. Bob Riley's office criticized a bill proposed by Democrats in the Legislature that prohibited the governor's office from issuing no-bid contracts but exempted the legislative branch, Sen. Lowell Barron introduced what he said was a corrected version Wednesday. Barron, chairman of the committee that decides which bills come to the Senate floor for consideration, said he always intended to stop all agencies from using no-bid contracts. He said the majority of the no-bid contracts, including a recent multimillion-dollar computer consulting contract, go through the executive branch, but his bill would ensure all agencies are included. Currently, Alabama does not have a law that prohibits no-bid contracts. Barron's legislation would prohibit no-bid contracts of more than $7,500 with an exception for emergencies. "Any contract with the state of Alabama in an amount in excess of $7,500 shall be competitively bid and open to the general public after a reasonable and prudent period of advertising on a central electronic site maintained by the state," according to the proposal. "Such contracts shall be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder. "Any contract entered into without complying with the lowest competitively bid requirement shall be null and void, and the state may not honor any no-bid contract which fails to comply with this section." Barron's first version stated that any contract entered into by the executive branch in any other manner would be null and void, drawing criticism from Riley's office since the legislation didn't mention any other branch of government. Riley's press secretary, Todd Stacy, said Friday that he might believe the error if the Democrats did not have a history of writing themselves out of accountability bills. He said the administration would be watching closely and doubts how serious the Democrats are about passing the bill. "If anyone buys that Lowell Barron and the Democrats actually want accountability, I have some pristine beachfront property in Oklahoma I'd like to sell them," Stacy said Wednesday. Stacy and other members of the administration have repeatedly criticized the Democrats for not following through on their covenant with voters leading up to the 2006 election, promising to pass ethics reform early in the next legislative session. "While they're at it, they should close the other loopholes they've carved out for themselves to avoid accountability, and pass anti-corruption reform," Stacy said. Barron, D-Fyffe, said it was always his intention to prohibit no-bid contracts by all agencies, but there was a mistake in drafting the legislation. He said Friday that he did not catch the language that only specified the executive branch and vowed to change the legislation to ensure it applied to all state agencies. Stacy, on Friday, questioned why the bill even mentioned the executive branch if it was intended to ban no-bid contracts from all branches. Barron and other Democrats are calling Riley the "King of No Bid Contracts" and said his administration has pushed through contracts totaling billions of dollars even though Riley criticized the widespread use of them in the previous administration. Stacy has said Riley is not giving out no-bid contracts to friends like the previous administration. He said Riley has brought more accountability to the contract process. Barron said Friday the administration was picking at his bill and added "I understand this (no-bid contract issue) is bothering them and it should." Stacy has said the governor would sign a bill if it actually banned no-bid contracts. Barron said eliminating no-bid contracts could save the state tens of millions of dollars. In the proposal, there is an exception for emergency contracts "to protect the general welfare and safety of the public." Those contracts should be designated as emergencies and proclaimed emergencies by the governor, according to the proposal. "Notification of emergency contracts shall be given to the public and the news media whenever executed and shall also be posted on a central electronic site so as to give the public and the news media additional access to all emergency contract information and a detailed explanation as to the specific cause of the emergency," according to the bill. Failure to comply with the provisions, if passed, "shall cause the non-compliant person or persons to be removed from his or her position or positions in state government upon conviction in a court of competent jurisdiction," according to the bill. Federal law prohibits agencies that receive federal funds from bidding out some services and some state agencies receive hundreds of millions of dollars from Washington. Palm Beach Post (Florida) December 16, 2009 Wednesday FINAL EDITION COUNTY OKS ETHICS PANEL, WATCHDOG IN HISTORIC VOTE With three of their former colleagues locked in federal prisons, county commissioners took dramatic action Tuesday to pierce the cloud of corrupt self-dealing that has cast a pall over the government for years. In a burst of unanimous votes, commissioners adopted an ethics commission, a code of ethics and revised property sales procedures and, in potentially the most far- reaching move,created an Office of Inspector General with the independence to investigate the commissioners themselves. County Commission Chairman Burt Aaronson called the votes "historic." He and fellow commissioners said the actions marked the end of one of the darkest chapters in county history, in which federal probes led Commissioners Tony Masilotti, Warren Newell and Mary McCarty to resign and plead guilty to using their offices to enrich themselves. Some of the corrupt acts of which former political powerhouse McCarty was accused in charging documents this year dated back nearly 20 years. Former West Palm Beach Commissioners Ray Liberti and James Exline also have served federal sentences since 2006. "It has been a troubling past couple years for those of us who have tried to do the good work of the public," Commissioner Karen Marcus said. "I am hoping that today this sets that behind us." The move came seven months after a grand jury convened by State Attorney Michael McAuliffe recommended the county enact tougher ethics laws, including the creation of an inspector general post. "The community can take some measure of satisfaction, even pride, in the process of restoring trust in our government," McAuliffe said. "The public wants elected leaders and public entities being responsive and responsible. These ethics reforms are forceful examples of that basic expectation being matched by the working reality of government." The county will begin seeking qualified candidates to fill the watchdog spot within the coming month. A selection committee made up of the newly created ethics panel, the state attorney and the public defender is expected to hire an inspector general by May 1. "I call it the ethics stimulus package," Commissioner Steve Abrams said. "Finally we are going to be on the road to turning the corner, so that we can then devote all of our attention to many of the critical issues we are facing." Commissioners are expected to vote Jan. 12 on plans to create an "implementation committee" designed to help county administrators establish the inspector general's office and the ethics commission. Under the reform package, the inspector general must have at least 10 years' experience as either a law enforcement official, a federal or state court judge, or a lawyer with expertise in investigating fraud, mismanagement and corruption. Also eligible: auditors, accountants or people with managerial experience in an investigative public agency. Those who have been employed within the last two years by Palm Beach County or any other government under the scrutiny of the inspector general's office are prohibited from the post. Tuesday's decisions apply only to county government. But commissioners plan to ask voters next year to approve a county charter change that would make the ethics reforms apply to the school board, municipalities and other local governments. Officials in at least one city, Boca Raton, said they plan to consider approving the reform package so it also applies to them. "I think it is important that we all get on board," Deputy Mayor Susan Whelchel said. Abrams on Tuesday sent an e-mail to officials in all 12 cities in his commission district, which includes Boca Raton, calling on them to adopt the county's reform package. Commissioners also have eliminated their discretionary accounts, a sore spot for budget watchdogs for years. "This is the last piece of the implementation of the grand jury report," Abrams said. South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News December 16, 2009 Wednesday Broward School Board passes new lobbying rules: Penalties stipulated for violators Dec. 16--FORT LAUDERDALE -- Lobbyists doing business with Broward County schools will face sanctions ranging from a warning to a two-year suspension if they do not follow rules unanimously approved Tuesday. The School Board's new rules create a "cone of silence" that prohibits lobbying of board members, the superintendent or other district officials from the time a request for proposals is issued to when a contract is awarded. Those who violate the "cone of silence" will be ineligible to receive a contract. The strengthened policies come after lobbyist Neil Sterling failed to disclose his business ties to board member Stephanie Kraft's husband, despite a district policy requiring disclosure. Sterling faced no punishment for not obeying the ethics rules because they were toothless. The new restrictions also follow the Sept. 23 arrest and subsequent suspension of board member Beverly Gallagher on corruption charges. "Many actions have to take place, in addition to the new lobbyist policy, to restore faith in the district's reputation," said board Chairwoman Jennifer Gottlieb. "However, this is a step in the right direction." The new policy also expands the definition of lobbyist to include those lobbying on behalf of their own company or employer. But it won't prohibit parents, community members or school groups from talking to board members or district officials. Lobbyists must register with the district every year and disclose whether they have business ties to School Board members, district officials or their immediate families. The new punishments for violating the lobbying rules include a warning, a reprimand, suspension or, in the most extreme cases, prohibition from lobbying for up to two years. The schools superintendent will be expected to conduct the investigation and recommend any penalties to board members. Under the new rules, lobbyists who repeatedly violate the rules will receive the harshest penalties. Springfield News-Leader (Missouri) December 16, 2009 Wednesday Top House leader wants to ban gifts, meals from lobbyists A top Republican state House leader is suggesting lawmakers ban lobbyists from giving them gifts and most free meals. With some former colleagues recently pleading guilty to federal crimes, several state lawmakers are introducing legislation this month to reform the way they do business in Jefferson City. On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steven Tilley unveiled a package of governmental reforms aimed at eliminating the perception that lawmakers are bought by special interest groups. "What we're trying to accomplish is making ... a long-term structural change in what goes on in Jefferson City," said Tilley, who could become the next Speaker of the House if Republicans retain control of the chamber in 2010. One of Tilley's main proposals would ban individual lawmakers from accepting any gifts and meals paid for by registered lobbyists. It would apply to meals provided to individual committees and the majority and minority caucuses in both chambers, Tilley said. That proposal was met with immediate skepticism from members on both sides of the aisle who questioned the practicality of such a ban. Lobbyists routinely buy catered meals for lawmakers who meet during the lunch hour in committees. "We're going to lose a large part of our working day by not being able to work through lunch when we break from noon to 2," said Rep. Jim Viebrock, R-Republic. Some committees also get fed breakfast by lobbyists and special interest groups during early committee meetings. Viebrock said he attends dinners with lobbyists and other lawmakers outside of the Capitol to get educated on issues. "I don't see anything wrong about going to a meal and getting some one-on-one attention to learn about an issue," Viebrock said. Tilley said his proposed ban of lobbyist-funded meals would not apply to organizations that invite all members of the House or Senate to large events and dinners. "I don't want to stop that because I don't want to discourage citizens of the state from coming up and advocating their positions," Tilley said. In recent months, three former Democratic state lawmakers from St. Louis -- Reps. Steve Brown and T.D. El-Amin and Sen. Jeff Smith -- pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges. El-Amin was brought down on a bribery charge, while Brown and Smith pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for lying about campaign tricks. For the past year, there has been a cloud of suspicion that the FBI is investigating pay-to-play schemes in the Capitol -- those in which lawmakers allegedly exchange official acts for campaign contributions. Rep. Charlie Norr, D-Springfield, said not every free meal from a lobbyist is lavish. "I've turned down filet mignon and lobster at the country club," Norr said. "We do meet and discuss business. If they want to buy me a sandwich, I don't see anything wrong with it." Tilley noted lawmakers already receive a $87.20 per diem when they're in session to cover meals and lodging expenses. Rep. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, is among a handful of legislators who pay for their own meals or reimburse lobbyists when they pick up the tab. "I just don't believe in the practice of grabbing a lobbyist to go grab lunch," Wasson said. "I think it can get out of hand at times. I think it can get too cozy at times with the lobbyist." Wasson said he does partake in meals provided to the entire House or a committee when the group doesn't break for dinner. Wasson, who is running for the 20th Senate district in 2010, indicated he'd support a ban on lobbyists showering legislators with gifts, such as tickets to sporting events. "I have a big problem with ballgame tickets, concert tickets and meals outside of the building," he said. Other legislation Earlier this month, Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields proposed legislation that would, in part, bar lawmakers from accepting contributions from lobbyists during the five-month legislative session from January to May. Shields, R-St. Joseph, said there's a perception that lawmakers who accept donations during the session do so in exchange for voting a particular way. "When contributions are made during session, the perception is there is a linkage there," Shields said. "And this starts to address this issue." The legislation wouldn't prohibit lobbyists from making contributions after the session concludes in mid-May. But it wouldn't prevent a lobbyist's spouse or co- worker from making the contribution on their behalf, Shields said. "I don't have a constitutional way of doing that," he said. On Monday, Republican Rep. Tim Flook and Democratic Rep. Jason Kander introduced ethics legislation aimed at strengthening criminal penalties for violating campaign finance laws. Flook and Kander are also seeking to tighten rules governing political action committees by prohibiting PACs from making contributions to other committees in order to obscure the source of the money. The practice is common on both sides of the aisle, even after lawmakers threw out contribution limits in 2008 and promising limitless contributions would end the money laundering. Tilley admitted the money shuffling continues in the era of limitless contributions. "But I think it's clear that it's far less than it was before," Tilley said. "It's much, much better than it was." House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence, said Tilley's proposals will do little to stop the wealthy from buying influence in the legislature. LeVota has introduced a bill that would cap contributions to representatives at $500, $1,000 for senators and $2,000 for statewide candidates. LeVota said prohibiting legislators from "accepting a plate of chicken wings or a slice of pizza from a lobbyist" doesn't address the core perception of lawmakers putting legislation up for sale. "To me, that's going to be more of a question than anything else," LeVota said. Lobbyist gifts, meals Registered lobbyists are required by law to disclose any gifts, meals, tickets or travel accommodations they buy for elected members of the Missouri General Assembly. Here's a look at the total value of all lobbyist-paid gifts and meals accepted to date in 2009 by state lawmakers who represent parts of Barry, Christian, Dade, Dallas, Douglas, Greene, Lawrence, Laclede, Stone, Taney and Webster counties: Representatives Eric Burlison, R-Springfield$1,179.02 Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville$6.58 Bob Dixon, R-Springfield$1,919.22 Charlie Denison, R-Springfield $786.53 Tony Dugger, R-Hartville$346.76 Ed Emery, R-Lamar$395.66 Sara Lampe, D-Springfield $920.27 Charlie Norr, D-Springfield $266.37 Mike Parson, R-Bolivar $2,519.91 Darrell Pollock, R-Lebanon $1,092.84 Don Ruzicka, R-Mount Vernon $829.71 David Sater, R-Cassville $117.50 Shane Schoeller, R-Willard$1,643.06 Jim Viebrock, R-Republic$975.02 Maynard Wallace, R-Thornfield $292.48 Jay Wasson, R-Nixa $0 Ray Weter, R-Nixa $755.89 Larry Wilson, R-Flemington $179.40 *Dennis Wood, R-Kimberling City $529.28 Senators Norma Champion, R-Springfield$512.33 Dan Clemens, R-Marshfield $1,462.43 Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon$367.53 Gary Nodler, R-Joplin$753.07 Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City$940.48 *Wood resigned in September to be appointed presiding commissioner of Stone County. -- Source: Missouri Ethics Commission Springfield News-Leader (Missouri) December 16, 2009 Wednesday Missouri Senate consumes more lobbyist-paid meals than House There might be one-fifth as many members of the Missouri Senate as there are in the 163-member House, but senators have consumed more than twice as many lobbyist-paid meals in 2009 as their counterparts in the lower chamber, state records show. The entire 34-member Senate has accepted $95,549.66 in meals and gifts from registered lobbyists this year, according to lobbyist-filed reports on the Missouri Ethics Commission Web site. The full House has accepted $47,088.02 worth of meals and gifts from the lobbying corps, according to ethics reports. The General Assembly as a whole has accepted $141,829.20 in meals and gifts this year for events and gatherings where all members are invited to partake, records show. One reason for the Senate's higher meal tab may be that the senators spent many nights during the 2009 session working late into the night through filibusters on reining in tax credits, an economic development bill and legislation that would have made it easier for AmerenUE to build a new nuclear power plant. Those figures do not include meals and gifts lobbyists have bought for individual lawmakers, committees or majority and minority party caucuses, which can be searched here on the Missouri Ethics Commission Web site. Year-to-date, lobbyists also report buying: · $13,990.58 in meals and gifts for Senate Republicans · $1,537.93 in meals and gifts for Senate Democrats · $48,664.94 in meals and gifts for House Republicans · $18,359.53 in meals and gifts for House Democrats When the caucuses from both parties are included, the House still beats the Senate in overall meals - $114,112.49 to $111,078.17, according to ethics commission data as of Tuesday. House Majority Leader Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, is calling for a ban on all lobbyist gifts and meals to individual lawmakers, committees and caucuses. Under Tilley's proposal, lawmakers could only get a free lunch when the entire House, Senate or General Assembly as a whole were invited to eat on a lobbyist's dime. Chicago Tribune December 14, 2009 Monday Chicagoland Final Edition Governor candidates say ethics reform law fell short; Many Democrats and Republicans support term, funding limits The candidates seeking to win the Feb. 2 Democratic and Republican primaries say the state needs to do more on ethics reform in the post-Rod Blagojevich era, with many saying the tenure and power of legislative leaders need to be curbed. In the first of a series of responses from three Democratic contenders and seven GOP candidates for governor to questions from the Tribune on the issues facing Illinois, many say a new campaign-finance reform law failed to go far enough by allowing top lawmakers to continue moving unlimited amounts of cash to the campaigns of rank-and-file legislators. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who took over in the state's top job when Blagojevich was ousted in January, signed the campaign-finance package last week. "I know that there are further reforms to be made, and I am committed to making real reform a top priority through the rest of my administration," Quinn said. "But look where we are today, compared with one year ago." He said he was proud of the progress made so far, including tougher state purchasing rules and moves to make government more transparent. Quinn's top rival for the Democratic nomination, three-term Comptroller Dan Hynes, said government needs more reforms "to show the people of Illinois that their government is as ethical and trustworthy as possible." Republicans are using the arrest of the former governor on federal corruption charges to try to return to the governor's mansion that the GOP held for a quarter- century until scandals under the last Republican governor, George Ryan, sent him to federal prison. "One-party rule in Illinois has produced the mess we are in, and I am committed to put the state back on the right fiscal and ethical path," said GOP state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington. He has called for tougher donation limits for individuals, businesses and political action committees than were imposed under the new law. Several contenders zeroed in on the power of the four people who head the state House and Senate Democratic and Republican caucuses as needing reform. The so- called Four Tops of the legislature are in essence statewide leaders but are chosen by their members. They control the flow of legislation and influence the votes of many individual lawmakers. The Collins commission supported term limits for House speaker, Senate president and the minority leaders in the two chambers, but they were not part of the package approved by lawmakers. Tenure limits of some form for politicians -- ranging from legislative leaders to statewide officeholders -- were supported by all of the contenders in both parties except for Hynes, who said he is a proponent of the "democratic process" of elections. Republicans particularly seized on the concept of legislative leader term limits, noting the Democratic control of the General Assembly and the lengthy tenure of House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago, who also is state Democratic chairman. Andy McKenna, formerly Madigan's counterpart as state Republican chairman, said that by limiting legislative leader tenure "we can help ensure that a small coterie of insiders no longer hijacks the legislative process at their whim or to advance personal causes." Jim Ryan, the former attorney general and unsuccessful 2002 GOP nominee for governor, said he favored term limits for top lawmakers "because dictatorial legislative leaders are only accountable to those in their small districts even though their power extends throughout the state." DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom said he had been opposed to legislative term limits but has changed his mind because "Illinois has illustrated that without fresh voices and ideas, individuals ... see their power grow." Quinn, the Democratic governor, long has supported the concept of term limits and said he believed an eight-year cap on legislative leaders was "reasonable." But, he said, the issue should be decided by voters. Hynes agreed with Republicans who said legislative leaders should be capped on how much money they could transfer from their leadership bank accounts into the funds of individual lawmakers. Another Democratic contender, activist William "Dock" Walls, of Chicago, called the lack of a transfer cap "a major shortcoming" in the law. Republican state Sen. Kirk Dillard, of Hinsdale, said he opposed the campaign finance reform bill because of the lack of limits on leadership dollars and said the "legislative process is monopolized by too few to truly represent the best interests" of Illinoisans. GOP contender Dan Proft, of Chicago, said the lack of leadership caps showed that "under the guise of attacking the pay-to-play culture in Springfield, the current political class acted only to further codify it." Adam Andrzejewski, a Hinsdale Republican, said he promoted a series of transparency reforms involving campaign finance mirrored on those adopted by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. The San Diego Union-Tribune December 14, 2009 Monday City fines lobbyist $4,500 for filing disclosures late SAN DIEGO: A lobbyist has been fined $4,500 by the San Diego Ethics Commission for failing to file required disclosures in a timely fashion. Mitchell Berner, who owns the lobbying firm Public Solutions, did not respond to repeated reminders from the commission and the City Clerk’s Office to file three quarterly reports in 2008 and 2009. The disclosures — which list clients, fundraising activities and campaign contributions — are required under lobbying laws that went into effect Jan. 1, 2008. Berner, an active registered lobbyist at San Diego City Hall since 2001, has since filed the disclosures. They show he had no lobbying activity during the reporting periods. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution December 13, 2009 Sunday Main Edition Gold Dome scandals nothing new It's enough to make Tiger Woods blush. Tales of strippers and Georgia state lawmakers cavorting on the coast. A state school superintendent fleecing taxpayers to fund a face-lift. A powerful state senator using his businesses to steal campaign money --- he also looted charities. Welcome to Georgia's gold-domed Capitol, which has been the backdrop for a spate of salacious scandals over the years. Most involved sex or money --- or both. The most recent, which forced the Dec. 3 resignation of House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) over allegations of a marriage-wrecking affair with a lobbyist, is just that - -- the latest in a long line of lawmakers behaving badly in Georgia and state capitals across the nation. "Power is an aphrodisiac," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "The temptations just overwhelm some of these guys. You're never going to stop it." There are about 7,400 state lawmakers across the nation, about three-fourths of them men, Sabato said. They hold vast lawmaking power over businesses worth billions of dollars. They operate in a landscape defined by the constant need to raise campaign cash. They are away from home for months at a time and are wined and dined by armies of lobbyists, including many attractive young women. It creates a political petri dish, with all the right ingredients for trouble. "The lobbyists are on them like bees on honey, and the legislators are the honey," Sabato said. "They are the money, they are the regulators and all the rest. They are where the power is." Last week, Missouri newspapers were filled with the sordid tale of former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton, charged with battering a woman in her home in a sexual interlude that apparently began as a consensual rendezvous. Then there's the recent case of former California lawmaker Mike Duvall, a married man forced to resign after he was caught bragging about having sex with two women, one of them an energy lobbyist. Georgia's list of Capitol miscues began long before Richardson. Consider these: 1995. Lobbyists treat five Georgia lawmakers --- Republicans and Democrats --- to a golf outing on Daufuskie Island, S.C. Four strippers from Atlanta's Cheetah Lounge tag along for reasons that are never explained. Lobbyists and lawmakers swear nothing inappropriate occurred. The incident spurs calls for tighter ethics rules and tarnishes several political careers. Among the attendees was current House Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter (R-Johns Creek). 2005. Former state Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker (D-Augusta) is sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges that include illegally profiting from advertisers in his Augusta newspaper, defrauding campaign contributors and illegally doing business with the state through two public hospitals. 2006. Former state school Superintendent Linda Schrenko, a Republican with gubernatorial ambitions, lands in federal prison after pleading guilty to embezzlement and money-laundering charges in a plot to steal federal funds intended for deaf and honor students. Schrenko used $9,300 of the loot for a face- lift. "I don't know if there are more scandals than there used to be, or you just hear about them more," said Alan Rosenthal, a Rutgers University political scientist and author of the 1996 book "Drawing the Line: Legislative Ethics in the States." In the past, Rosenthal said, there was no blogger-crowded, gossip-saturated Internet. Print and broadcast journalists largely ignored politicians' sexual dalliances. And there is the Clinton factor, he said. Then-president Bill Clinton had an affair with a young intern, lied to the nation about it, then tried to redefine not only what sex is, but what "is is." But his wife stood by him and he survived an impeachment attempt. Rosenthal said there is little doubt the Clinton affair had an impact. "When the president is involved in a scandal with an intern in the White House and gets away with it, then other people say 'Why not?' " Rosenthal said. Rosenthal believes, however, that legislative standards have improved over the last few decades. 'Mood right' for change? The Georgia Capitol is a cacophonous zoo during the 40-day legislative session. It's a place where school kids crowd the marble corridors alongside high-paid lobbyists, more than a few in high heels and form-flattering outfits. Sometimes the halls look as if a school bus collided with a modeling agency. Also crowding the place are the state's 236 lawmakers. They are lawyers, teachers, farmers and business owners. Each makes a base salary of just $16,000 a year. They must run for office every two years, which means they are always running for office. Even a mid-level campaign can cost $50,000. "The system is skewed to allow lobbyists to have an incredible amount of influence," said state Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Atlanta). She said "inappropriate relationships" were a part of the Capitol long before Republicans took power a few years back. Democrats ran the state for more than a century before that. "Our abuses of power led in part to our loss of the majority, and now we see the same issues bringing down the Republican Party," Benfield said. State Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) said he plans to introduce legislation limiting lobbyist spending to $100 per lawmaker per session. "We can do things to control the issues regarding money," Willard said. "You can't do much to legislate morality." But Benfield said she believes that problem can be addressed as well. "If more women were in leadership positions, I doubt we'd see the sexual indiscretions that have been plaguing the Georgia General Assembly," she said. The Miami Herald December 13, 2009 Sunday Florida Commission on Ethics seeks more authority Criticized as a toothless tiger, the Commission on Ethics wants more authority to investigate and punish wayward officials in Florida. The watchdog agency wants to seize the moment at a time when a string of scandals has seized public attention and a statewide grand jury is launching a major public corruption inquiry. But only the Legislature can expand or restrict the commission's powers. Legislators have long been wary of giving the agency more clout, partly out of a fear that it would lead to witch hunts aimed at lawmakers themselves. ``This state has been rocked by ethics scandals from one end to the other over the past year,'' says Cheryl Forchilli of Tampa, head of the bipartisan, nine-member commission. ``The public consciousness has really been raised to the level of corruption and unethical practices. If there's ever been political will, it's going to be now. We've attempted to craft proposals that don't overreach.'' The past year has brought indictments against a state legislator, a Broward County commissioner and School Board member and a prominent Hollywood lobbyist, and a wide ranging criminal inquiry into a major Broward County fundraiser that has seen federal agents questioning senators. PETTY POLITICS But much of the ethics commission's time appears to involve petty violations or small-town politics - like a case involving a Little League umpire fired by the town of Century's recreation department. The commission is promoting a package of proposed legislative changes, including: • Giving the commission staff power to initiate investigations based on ``reliable and publicly disseminated information'' and without a formal complaint being filed, as the law now requires. Such investigations would require a supermajority vote by the full commission (at least six of nine members). • Imposing a 10-fold increase in the maximum fine for violations, from $10,000 to $100,000. • Lowering the burden of proof for a violation, from the current standard of clear and convincing evidence to a preponderance of the evidence. ``Any watchdog agency that has no ability to initiate an investigation is just inherently limited in how effective it can be,'' Forchilli said. A similar proposal has been advanced in previous years with no action by a resistant Legislature. ``All these things are generally dead on arrival,'' said Mark Herron, a lawyer who represents public officials accused of ethics violations and who served on the commission in the 1980s. He opposes most of the proposed changes to the ethics laws. ``By reducing the burden of proof, you're doing a disservice to the entire process,'' Herron said. ``If you're going to damage someone's reputation and call them a corrupt public official, you ought to have a clear and convincing standard.'' Raising the maximum fine to $100,000 makes no sense, he said, noting that the maximum fine for a life felony in Florida is $15,000 (though such crimes also carry lengthy prison terms). Forchilli said the current fines are laughably low, and the agency needs a much broader range of potential fines to mete out appropriate penalties. She noted corruption cases in South Florida involving tens of millions of dollars. ``A $2,000 fine for an ethics violation becomes a cost of doing business,'' Forchilli said. EXPERIENCED Any proposed changes to the ethics laws will be reviewed by the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee -- which is chaired by freshman Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, who has firsthand experience with the subject. Thrasher has been cited twice for ethics violations, once as a House member for illegally representing a client for a state agency and later for lobbying the Legislature less than two years after leaving office. As a Clay County commissioner in 2006, Thrasher was cleared by the commission of an ethics allegation after he voted to award a contract to a garbage firm he had represented as a lobbyist. As House speaker in 1999, Thrasher blocked legislation that would have beefed up the ethics commission's power, saying it could lead to witch hunts. Thrasher promised to keep an open mind, but said he did not know enough about the proposals to comment in detail. He said his priorities are confirming political appointees of Gov. Charlie Crist, and changing the way legislative leaders can raise campaign money. ``We've got to have an ethics commission. I certainly agree with that,'' Thrasher said. ``If they have some ideas to make it better, it's something we'll certainly look at.'' Forchilli says the time is now to give her agency more authority. ``I think the legislative leadership, in the current climate, should be ready to lead the charge to make these changes,'' she said. San Jose Mercury News (California) December 13, 2009 Sunday San Jose mayor angers labor groups with ethics proposals As he heads toward the final city council meeting of the year Tuesday, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is unveiling a set of ethics recommendations that are sparking controversy with some labor-backed council members and their allies. From avoiding conflicts of interest by council members' relatives to closing loopholes in the city's lobbying ordinance, Reed says he's determined to eliminate abuse at City Hall. But local labor groups say Reed is targeting them. "Politicians are often tempted to use their power to protect themselves from criticism. Chuck Reed apparently wants to change the city's ethics rules for that purpose,'' read a statement released Friday by Working Partnerships USA, a non- profit think tank affiliated with the South Bay Labor Council. Reed said the labor group's statement has "no connection'' to what he is proposing. He said the ideas came from a variety of sources: complaints from the public, suggestions from the council, his own observations and feedback from an informal group of local ethics experts. "I go through a process every two years I keep a running list of the things that come to my attention during that time,'' said Reed, explaining how he composed his 2009 biennial ethics review. San Jose voters approved the review process as a charter amendment in 1990. The city charter does not say what must be included in the mayor's review, nor does it require the mayor to do anything beyond sending a memo to the council with proposed changes to the ethics policy. But Reed decided in 2007 and again this year to convene a panel of local experts to discuss potential changes to San Jose's ethics rules. This year, to expand participation, the mayor asked the council to suggest items for consideration. He then held a community meeting in June at which the public was allowed to give input. Yet some council members and their staffs say the final proposals smack of retribution. "Many of the recommendations certainly have a political slant,'' said Ryan Ford, chief of staff for Councilwoman Nora Campos. Reed has been a frequent target of Campos' barbs, and her husband, Neil Struthers, is a registered lobbyist with the Santa Clara County Building Trades Council. One of Reed's proposals seeks to require Campos and any other councilperson in a similar position to verbally disclose that relationship before voting on any issue related to her husband's work. Current rules only oblige council members to disclose such relationships if a matter of financial interest comes before the council. (Campos often goes further, volunteering whether she or anyone on her staff has discussed a given issue with Struthers, which has occasionally elicited titters in the council chambers.) Ford also notes that many of Reed's recommendations "are a result of specific incidents involving the South Bay Labor Council," the powerful group with whom Reed has frequently clashed and whose leader, Cindy Chavez, ran against Reed for mayor. Reed's proposal to close a loophole in the city's lobbyist registration and disclosure rules is thought by many in City Hall to be a jab at Bob Brownstein, a former city budget director who now directs policy for Working Partnerships USA. Under the current ordinance, Brownstein is exempted from registering as a lobbyist because Working Partnerships is a nonprofit. But Reed says Brownstein also lobbies council members on behalf of the Labor Council, which is a registered lobbying group. Reed's proposal would require non-profits to register and comply with the lobbying ordinance "if it is engaged in lobbying activity and is controlled ... by another entity that is required to register" under the ordinance. Brownstein declined to comment on the issue. But Jody Meacham, spokesman for Working Partnerships, said: "Many aspects of the policy, in fact, are narrowly tailored to silence only the mayor's political opponents. We object to elected officials having the ability to pick and choose the citizens or groups of citizens allowed access to their government.'' Reed who kicked off his re-election campaign last week amid soaring poll ratings scoffed at that accusation, saying the rules apply "to everybody.'' He said the proposal also would impact other advocacy organizations with non-profit arms like the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Association, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and even some housing developers with established family charities. Still, the inspiration behind many of the proposals appears to be drawn from the hit- parade of recent San Jose political brawls, many of them thought to be linked in some way to labor. For example, the proposal to limit anonymous complaints to the city's Elections Commission is almost surely in reference to the brouhaha that erupted last December, when an anonymous complaint was filed to the commission accusing former Mayor Tom McEnery and his family business of repeatedly violating city lobbying rules. Normally, such complaints are kept secret until they are evaluated, but copies of the McEnery complaint were mailed the same day to his neighbors, the media and community leaders. In April, the Elections Commission dismissed the complaint after an independent investigation showed the McEnerys made a good-faith effort to comply with the lobbying rules. But at least one commissioner said the commission had been manipulated in a political mugging; McEnery, like Reed, long has clashed with labor and has been an advisor to the current mayor. Tom Mertens, a former Elections Commissioner and a member of the group that met with Reed earlier this year to discuss the ethics ideas, cites this proposal as among the most important. While anonymous complaints would still be accepted in limited circumstances to protect whistle-blowing employees, the amendment also would prevent a repeat what happened to McEnery, Mertens said. If the limit is not approved, Mertens said he foresees future political campaigns being hijacked at the last minute by anonymous complaints that garner media attention, "and there is no recourse for a candidate who is attacked like that.'' Councilman Ash Kalra, a staunch labor ally, issued a four-page memo late Friday afternoon that seeks to revisit many of Reed's proposals. The memo was co-signed by councilmembers Nancy Pyle and Kansen Chu. "The issue I have with the recommendations he is putting forward is that they don't seem to be very well thought-out," said Kalra. "And I think it's wrong and unethical to use the guise of ethics reform to target political adversaries.'' Countered Reed: "I'm not targeting political adversaries. I'm trying to plug loopholes.'' Mayor ReeD"s ethics Recommendations Here are nine proposals Mayor Chuck Reed will place before the city council Tuesday. 1. Avoid conflicts of interests arising from family relationships. 2. Close a loophole in lobbyist registration and disclosure. 3. Require all decision-making boards and commissions to meet at City Hall. 4. Avoid "policy by surprise" at council committees by deferring action on last-minute proposals. 5. Allow laid-off employees to seek a waiver of the prohibition on "revolving door employment with the city. 6. Improve timely disclosure of council member calendars and those of top officials. 7. Debate requests to drop or defer agenda items at their scheduled time, rather than at the start of the meeting. 8. Limit anonymous complaints to the Elections Comission. 9. Ensure that arbitration hearings over police and fire contracts are open to the public. Des Moines Register December 12, 2009 Saturday Culver puts lobbyists on notice for '10 Gov. Chet Culver vowed Friday to stand up to lobbyists' efforts to derail aspects of a government-streamlining proposal, as they have some of his priorities. Here are three examples Culver cited during a conference call with Des Moines Register reporters and editors, and some background about the issues. Prevailing wage: "I mean, who is against giving a carpenter two more dollars an hour to rebuild our state from the floods? Most Iowans think that makes sense. But the special interests stopped it." In 2007, Democrats proposed requiring that contractors and subcontractors pay employees who work on public projects the same hourly wage and benefits as those paid on private projects. Majority Democrats were unable to muster the votes to pass it that year or in the subsequent two legislative sessions. The Iowa Association of Business and Industry aired advertisements in opposition to pro-union legislation this year, while the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees lobbied for it. Bottle bill: "We came up with an idea to clean up our environment and raise the redemption amount on cans and bottles so we could not only keep trash out of the ditches across the state and keep Iowa beautiful but also fund REAP," Culver said. "And that also got taken down by the special interests." REAP is Resource Enhancement and Protection, a program that pays for trails, land and cultural attractions. Last year, Culver proposed doubling the 5-cent deposit on bottles and cans and allowing consumers to get only 8 cents of the higher deposit back when containers were returned. The state would have kept 2 cents, to be split between REAP and the stores handling the collections. Grocers objected to the idea. But so did lawmakers in Culver's own party, who described it privately as a tax increase during an election year. Combined corporate reporting: "We wanted to require corporations like Wal-Mart to pay their fair share with combined corporate reporting. But the special interests prevailed there," Culver said. Culver was referring to his 2008 proposal to close a tax exemption that allowed out- of-state companies doing business here to avoid paying taxes on income in Iowa. Business groups and large out-of-state employers such as Alcoa, which employs more than 2,000 people in Davenport, said the measure would make Iowa less competitive with other states vying for jobs. As with the bottle bill, lawmakers complained that Culver had not vetted the proposal with them first, and that it also amounted to a politically unwise tax increase.
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