- Gentlemen, start your drones: Judge’s ruling opens door for commercial use
- Soldier who hid, bragged about not saluting flag to be punished — in secret
- ‘Maverick’ of the seas: ‘Top Gun’ school for U.S. ship officers to launch
- Putin declares Sochi Paralympics open amid Ukrainian protest
- ‘In Jesus name, we pray’ sparks ire at Ohio council meeting
- Navy’s first laser weapon ready for prime time; drone killer to deploy this summer
- Billionaire backer: Rick Santorum ‘needs to be heard’ in 2016
- Obamacare fallout: 49 percent pessimistic; 45 percent ‘scared’
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Seattle socialist: Minimum-wage discussion skewed by ‘right-wing’ GAO analysis
Maryland Senate to introduce ethics bill
A special Senate panel charged with revamping the state's ethics laws is expected to introduce a bill this week detailing its recommendations.
Senate Special Committee on Ethics Reform Chairman Jamin B. Raskin said he will submit a bill before Friday that would make state lawmakers' financial disclosures available online and require thousands of other officials to file their disclosures electronically.
Mr. Raskin, Montgomery Democrat, said making officials' disclosures more readily available will increase transparency and make the public more involved and officials more accountable.
"If disclosure is going to be real, then we need to have a fully sunlit opportunity for inspection," he said. "If we can get this legislation through, we would be an ethical model" for the rest of the nation.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. appointed the seven-member committee last month, and its formation was owed heavily to the trial of Sen. Ulysses Currie, who was acquitted in November of charges that he took nearly $250,000 from a grocery chain in exchange for political influence.
Mr. Currie, Prince George's Democrat, reported the income on tax returns and insisted he was working as a legitimate consultant for the grocer but acknowledged he made an ethical misstep by not reporting his work to the State Ethics Commission.
The Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics will decide his fate this session and could recommend penalties ranging from reprimand to expulsion.
State ethics laws now require that lawmakers file annual forms disclosing any potential conflicts that they, a spouse or live-in child may have.
Potential conflicts include the lawmaker or a family member working for a state or local agency. Lawmakers also must disclose if they or immediate family members own more than $25,000 in stock or a 10 percent share of a corporation.
According to state law, people must visit Annapolis to examine state officials' disclosure records. They also must provide their names and addresses, which can later be accessed by officials.
Proponents for reform argue the current system restricts and even discourages public access.
"It's no good having them if the public doesn't have access to them," said Mr. Miller, Prince George's Democrat. "We want people to see what interests [lawmakers] have before actual votes are taken."
Mr. Raskin's bill would allow residents to freely access lawmakers' records online without providing personal information.
Supporters say the legislation would take Maryland from having a middling record of transparency compared to other states to having one of the most open ethics systems in the nation.
The bill would have to go through an additional Senate committee before reaching the chamber floor.
If passed into law, disclosures filed by state lawmakers, elected officials and cabinet heads would be posted online beginning in July 2013.
Other public officials would see their information go online in July 2015.
Mr. Raskin said he expects the bill to have strong support in the 47-member chamber, and that some House members have expressed interest in sponsoring or supporting the legislation.
Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire, a member of the committee, said some that critics have expressed concerns about officials' family members having their information out in the open, but that response has been largely positive.
"I think we've worked through most of the issues," the Anne Arundel Republican said. "I'm confident we'll get something passed and, hopefully, lead the nation in ethics reform."
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
TWT Video Picks
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Rand Paul wins 2014 CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz finishes a distant second
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- CURL: The modern GOP really is Reagan's 'Big Tent' party
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- U.S. deploys 12 F-16 fighter jets to Poland as exercise in response to Ukraine situation
- High schooler suing parents for money shot down by judge
- Six Senate seats could hinge on Keystone pipeline
- Russias Putin nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again