Conflict of Interest Disclosure Bill Moving in Senate

A March 19 article examines the State’s conflict of interest forms and the attention [or lack of attention] that these important disclosures receive.  The article also discusses legislation (SB 920) introduced this Session by Senator Jamie Raskin that would require the financial disclosure and conflict of interest forms of State legislators to be posted online.  The bill provides that local government and school board officials would be exempt from this requirement.  Under current law, local conflict of interest provisions must be the same or more stringent than the State requirements.

Legislators are required to file a variety of ethics forms, disclosing any apparent conflict of interest and either affirming their ability to consider legislation objectively or requesting a recusal from voting. Those who are employed by other state or local agencies are also asked to disclose their income. …

Lawmakers’ folders reveal the variety of issues that can arise with an all-citizen legislature. Some files disclose ownership of various small businesses while others pertain to family relationships that extend into public life.  …

One of the leading advocates for reform has been Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery. With a bill he has proposed, Raskin hopes to place conflict of interest forms as well as legislators’ financial disclosure documents all online. Currently, those wishing to view the two different forms must travel to separate offices in Annapolis. Raskin, who chairs a Special Committee on Ethics Reform appointed by Senate President Mike Miller this year, argues that increasing public accessibility goes hand in hand with curbing corruption.

The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee reported SB 920 favorable with amendments.  The full Senate is scheduled to consider the bill today.

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