Last updated: March 24. 2014 11:21PM - 3448 Views
By Andrew M. Seder aseder@civitasmedia.com

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State legislators from both sides of the aisle are seeking support for bills to prohibit legislators from accepting cash as a personal gift from a registered lobbyist or anyone else who is not a member of a legislator’s family.

In addition, a local senator has proposed a state Senate rule that wouldn’t require support of the full legislature and a signature of the governor calling for the same prohibitions.

Two Senate Republicans and a Senate Democrat announced their intentions to introduce similar bills that would restrict such gifts. In separate releases, the officials cited recent “allegations” of legislators accepting large cash gifts from a lobbyist.

The matter, published in a series of recent stories by The Philadelphia Inquirer, involved a sting operation involving members of the state Attorney General’s Office from 2010-12. The newspaper details how multiple state representatives from the Philadelphia area accepted cash gifts from a lobbyist and did not report them on financial forms as required.

The matter was dropped by current Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who said there were too many issues involved in the investigation — started by her predecessor — to successfully prosecute the case.

Sens. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, and Lloyd Smucker, R-West Lampeter Township, on Monday announced plans to introduce legislation and noted ongoing conduct issues of public officials in the state as a genesis for it.

“As revelations and allegations about the conduct of public officials in Pennsylvania continue to weaken public confidence in the General Assembly, it is imperative that we make significant, immediate changes,” said Baker. “A ban on cash gifts to legislators will be a strong step forward.”

Smucker called the ban “long overdue.”

The way they intend to write the bill, the receipt of foreign currency, money orders, checks, gift cards and certificates, and prepaid debit and credit cards will also be banned in addition to cash gifts.

State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Bryn Mawr, also announced plans to introduce a bill that is similar, but also includes a ban on campaign contributions given in cash totalling more than $50.

“We’ve all read recently about allegations of legislators accepting large cash gifts from a lobbyist. I obviously do not know the truth of any of those allegations, however in reading the press accounts of the investigation and the allegations that emerged, I was troubled to learn that there was no legal prohibition against accepting such gifts if they had been offered,” he said.

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