Virginia House leaders agree on ethics reforms

The Times-Dispatch in Richmond is reporting that House leaders have reached a deal on sweeping reforms to state ethics, transparency and disclosure laws.

state-capitol2The work toward reform is an outgrowth of the ongoing investigation into the gifts scandal that ensnared outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell and to a lesser extent Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

The reforms include:

* Prohibiting elected officials from soliciting gifts and placing a $250 limit on the amount of gifts they can receive from lobbyists and individuals with business interests before the state.

* Requiring the reporting of gifts to elected officials’ spouses and immediate family members, while clarifying definitions on gifts that can be received from personal friends.

* Requiring elected officials to file financial disclosure forms twice a year, on a schedule that is synchronized with the filing requirements of lobbyists and lawmakers.

* Establishing a “State Ethics Advisory Commission” of legislator and citizen appointees to oversee Virginia’s disclosure system, and put all disclosure forms online.

“While we recognize the difficulty in legislating ethical behavior among elected officials, we believe it is important to set clear standards of conduct that the public can understand, and that we should sanction those who violate the public trust,” Republican Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights, and Democratic Minority Leader David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, wrote in an opinion column that will be published in Tuesday’s Times-Dispatch print edition.

“The citizens of Virginia demand nothing less.”

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