Your view: Time to ban gifts to state legislators

December 6th, 2017 6:37 pm

In late 2014 and early 2015, five current and former members of the General Assembly were charged with bribery and other charges related to their acceptance of cash “gifts” from a lobbyist.

Despite a flurry of legislation at the time to ban cash gifts, it never happened. The House and Senate changed their chambers’ rules to prohibit the acceptance of cash gifts from lobbyists, but the law hasn’t changed. The law hasn’t changed because banning only cash gifts would raise some very uncomfortable questions for lawmakers about the kinds of gifts they can still accept.

What kinds of gifts can they accept? Virtually anything as long as they follow the disclosure rules. Over the years those gifts have included everything from Super Bowl tickets to Turkish rugs.

At Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvnaia, we generally aren’t a fan of banning things and unnecessary regulations. However, given the sheer number of public officials from Pennsylvania who end up in prison, we think that enacting a commonsense “gift ban” makes a lot of sense.

Rep. Rick Saccone introduced HB 39 in early 2017 to accomplish that goal.

Despite being introduced and assigned to the House State Government Committee in January of this year, there has never been a hearing on this or any other gift ban-related legislation. Citizens of the Commonwealth have been victimized by corrupt politicians of both parties for years. We believe that passage of this legislation would certainly show that lawmakers are getting the message and are willing to take concrete actions to get their house in order.

Leo Knepper

CEO, Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania

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