Wednesday, March 10, 2010

UPDATE: HB665 bill on ethics passes in Senate with 60-day loophole

HB655 on Ethics passed Wednesday afternoon. An amendment failed 18-21 by Chesterfield Republican Senator Stephen Martin who attempted to add to language that withholds complaints 60-days prior to “any nominating event.”  The language of the bill in its current form only includes primaries.

However, if a complaint is filed 60 or fewer days before a primary or general election in which the cited legislator is running for office, the Director and chairman shall hold the complaint until after that primary or general election before forwarding the complaint to the Panel.

Senator Frederick Quayle Republican from Suffolk  agreed that changes in the ethics rule are needed. He said that Northam’s bill was a good bill and “what happened to it down at the end of the hall I am not sure.”

Quayle explained that the bill in this form “has some minefields in it … and makes it possible that there be some political mischief that takes place immediately prior to an election.” Quayle said for that reason he opposed the bill.


Senator John Edwards details the backpedaling on ethics bills

FRIDAY, March 5: “Everyone couldn’t wait to get these ethics bills submitted when the Phil Hamilton story broke,” quipped Senator John Edwards. Edwards represents Roanoke and parts of four surrounding counties.

Republican Phil Hamilton of Newport News sought a job at Old Dominion University and at the same time he was seeking state funding for ODU teaching center. The ethics investigation ended with his resignation.

To close this loophole a bill (SB 186) sponsored by Norfolk Democrat Sen. Ralph Northam passed the Senate 40-0. It was subsequently killed (held over to 2011) in the Senate House Rules committee on a 12-3 vote with Senators Johnson, Armstrong, and Plum dissenting.

Edwards said that Henry County Democrat Minority Leader Ward Armstrong’s bill “was a pretty good bill” and was similar to Northam’s but not totally the same.

Edwards said that when it came from the House to his Rules sub-committee “they tried to fix it to look like Northam’s bill.” Friday morning in the Rules committee when they learned Northam’s bill had been killed they asked Armstrong whether they should send the “fixed” bill over to the house.

Armstrong said, “no they’ll kill it” according to Edwards. He wanted it approved the way it was though it was not perfect.

So they decided to report it to the full floor to demonstrate that the Republicans don’t really want an ethics reform bill. They were going to send it back over to “make them kill it,” said Edwards.

Both Armstrong and Northam insisted that they wanted an ethics bill while others remarked that “this is good government and it may not be perfect but this is the best we can do.”

Friday morning on a 10-6 vote the bill was reported to the Senate floor from the Rules Committee.

Edwards wondered if the Senate would even approve it now that several Democrats did not like it.

Republican Senator Steve Newman had an amendment that failed and would have gutted it. But Edwards thinks Newman will try it again on the Senate floor with now some Democrats liking it too. Newman’s amendment says that nobody can complain about a legislator other than another legislator – no citizen.

Armstrong’s HB 655 was reported out of committee without the substitute so the House wouldn’t have a chance to muck with it.

“The House doesn’t really want to have ethics reform,” concluded Edwards.

Armstrong’s bill may not pass the Senate. Newman doesn’t like it and is lobbying his friends against it. There were already 6 nay votes in the Democratic dominated Senate Rules committee.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Politics, State Politics

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