Senate Stuck On Mandating Online Disclosure For Locals

On the floor of the Senate today, the Senate discussed an amendment to a state ethics reform bill (SB 920) to extend the bill’s reach to local governments. The bill would require that public officials’ disclosure forms to be hosted online for state officials — and the amendment offered by Senator Zirkin would also apply the same requirement to local officials — including county elected officials and school board members.

Click here to read the amendment language.

After a spirited debate, the bill and pending amendment were delayed, with floor discussion about altering the requirement to only affect county officials, and exempting municipal officials.

Among the comments made on the floor in defense of local governments were these from Senator Getty:

And so you might want the chief of the fire company, the head of the local bank, the leading business man in town to serve on the town council but this type of legislation has a chilling effect on a small town, a small municipality where everyone knows everyone’s business. We’ve changed the traditional ethics requirement. … But it does have a chilling effect on these small municipalities; people will just not run to serve on a town council

There is a bill in EHE Committee … it’s a consensus bill that MML, MACo, and MABE worked on with our special committee. What is happening right now is the state’s ethics commission has the ability to exempt some of the smaller jurisdictions, but we think that is not enough. I would like to see the ethics online disclosure act move forward over to the House as it is. This amendment would raise grave concerns about the ultimate success of the bill.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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