New legislative ethics measures advance (they should also have courses on Integrity)

Pretty basic if you think about it.  Elected officials convicted of corruption should not be allowed to Lobby. NOW THAT is extraordinary – our officials actually coming up with something to pass. (but isn’t this the second time?)

New legislative ethics measures advance

TRENTON — Elected officials convicted of corruption would be prohibited from lobbying and an oft-criticized legislative ethics panel would be revamped under measures pushed ahead today by state lawmakers.

The legislation comes after four Democratic lawmakers were either indicted or arrested on federal corruption charges last year and a former Democratic senator was indicted on corruption charges this year.

“I think it’s important that legislators and people who are trying to influence the legislative process be held to the highest possible standard,” said Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr., D-Camden, who is among Democratic and Republican legislative leaders sponsoring the proposed reforms.

The legislation was approved Monday by both the Assembly and Senate State Government committees. The measures could get full Assembly votes on Thursday.

One bill would disqualify any individual convicted of a first-, second-, or third-degree crime, including any former elected or appointed official convicted of a crime that touched upon their office, from registering as a lobbyist. Violators would face up to $10,000 in fines.

The ban would affect Anthony Impreveduto, a 17-year Hudson County Democratic assemblyman who pleaded guilty in 2004 to misusing campaign funds.

Impreveduto has been lobbying for the New Jersey Society of Independent Physical Therapists, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.

He did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Another measure would remove lawmakers from the 16-member legislative ethics panel, which has chastised few legislators and been rife with partisan bickering, and replace them with an eight-member commission staffed by citizens.

The bill would also give the panel more authority to force lawmakers to disclose financial information and require each legislator to participate in annual ethics training.

Roberts said the legislation would make the ethics commission “truly an independent voice with unquestioned independence.”

“It is a committee that has really failed to do the job,” he said.

Lawmakers also pushed forward a new legislative ethics code that mainly incorporates existing state laws that, among other things, limit the gifts a legislator or family member may accept from lobbyists to $250 a year. A bid last session to bar legislators and their family members from accepting any gifts failed to pass.

A new provision would prohibit legislators from using their official title to endorse or advertise a for-profit venture.

Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, called the proposals “changes that the public has been clamoring for, changes that will prohibit conflicts of interest and create greater efficiency and oversight to investigate ethical complaints.”

Assembly lawmakers last week also advanced bills to bar anyone from participating in more than one taxpayer-paid health insurance plan and from taking campaign donations from aides.

Senate Republicans complained the proposals didn’t go far enough. They want, among other things, to bar legislators from seeking grants for their employers and tougher bans on campaign contributions from government contractors and county political parties.

“These are the issues New Jersey residents are clamoring to be resolved,” said Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. said Republicans will continue to press for stronger reforms.

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