Home Virginia Politics House Panel Advances Loophole-Riddled Ethics Omnibus

House Panel Advances Loophole-Riddled Ethics Omnibus

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From Progress Virginia:

Bill increases disclosure but fails to ban gifts 

Richmond, VA – The House Courts of Justice Committee this afternoon advanced an amended version of HB1211, the ethics omnibus bill. While the bill will increase disclosure through an online database of filings and lowered disclosure thresholds, the committee failed to take any action to close the glaring gift loopholes ProgressVA previously noted in the bill.

HB1211 as reported continues to differentiate between tangible and intangible gifts, and only applies the $250 ban to tangible gifts. As ProgressVA demonstrated in a report released last month, approximately 2% of gifts legislators receive are tangible items. The vast majority of gifts are intangible; real life examples trips to France or Turkey, family vacations to Busch Gardens, and tickets to Redskins games. HB1211 would not ban any of these items, although they would continue to be disclosed.

“This bill still purports to be a gift ban without actually prohibiting elected officials from accepting gifts,” said ProgressVA executive director Anna Scholl. “Virginia families deserve better than a “trust me” from elected officials who can accept virtually unlimited gifts from special interests.”

HB1211 also only applies the ban on soliciting gifts to the solicitation of tangible gifts worth more than $250. Legislators may still solicit unlimited intangible gifts.