- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 20, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A state ethics panel assembled by Gov. Terry McAuliffe has recommended a $15,000 salary increase for Virginia lawmakers.

The panel made the recommendation Monday at its final meeting. McAuliffe appointed the panel shortly after former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted of public corruption last year.

Lawmakers now receive $15,000 annually for office expenses in addition to salaries of $17,640 for House members and $18,000 for senators. They can use the office expense money any way they wish.

The panel proposed adding that $15,000 part of lawmakers’ salaries and establishing a new $15,000 allowance that could be used only for office expenses, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports (https://bit.ly/1RkaHGh) reports.

In addition, the members also recommended:



- new limits on gifts from personal friends;

- an outright ban on the personal use of campaign funds;

- and widening the ban on political fundraising during legislative sessions to include veto sessions and special sessions lasting more than one day.

Former Rep. Rick Boucher, a Democrat who represented southwest Virginia, co-chairs the ethics commission. He said increasing salaries to $33,000 in the House and Senate would bring Virginia in line with other states.

“That’s important to enable people who are not of independent means to run for the General Assembly,” Boucher said. “It promotes competition in legislative races.”

The last raise went into effect in 1988.

The proposed raises got a chilly reception from House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford.

“The speaker is not interested and does not feel that the House as a whole is interested either,” Howell spokesman Matt Moran said.

The commission recommended a ban on gifts valued at more than $5,000 from personal friends, except when the state’s Ethics Advisory Council grants a waiver. Gifts valued at more than $1,000 would require disclosure on forms that list officials’ financial interests and sources of income. The proposed rules would not apply to gifts from relatives.

___

Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, https://www.timesdispatch.com

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