Government Reform Caucus Urges Action on Bills Banning Gifts

The state legislature’s new Government Reform Caucus is urging action on measures that would limit or ban public officials from accepting gifts and cash.

State Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/York) and state Rep. George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland), the co-chairs of the bipartisan, bicameral group, joined fellow members of the Government Reform Caucus during a Capitol news conference today to highlight several bills that are currently awaiting consideration in various Senate and House committees.

“Public officials should be working in the best interest of Pennsylvania taxpayers and families. Their judgment should not be swayed by perks of any kind, and that’s why we must take swift action on the gift and cash ban measures currently before the legislature,” said Teplitz, the founder of the caucus. “The Government Reform Caucus was created to support legislation that would improve accountability and transparency in government. Addressing the issues of gifts and cash is an appropriate measure that Pennsylvania can and must enact.”

“As elected officials and public servants at all levels, we owe the residents of Pennsylvania maximum transparency and accountability in everything we do,” said Dunbar. “We must continue to make changes in the way state government does business to provide this transparency to our residents. There is absolutely no room for corruption or abuse in our system. It is my hope that this bicameral Government Reform Caucus will continue to act as a bipartisan sentinel to defend the best interests of the citizens we serve.”

Dunbar has authored legislation to substantially amend the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act in regards to financial disclosures. Specifically, House Bill 1872 would establish new gift and transportation/lodging/hospitality reporting requirements as follows:

  • Any gift valued at over $50 must be reported (current threshold is $250).
  • Any expense for transportation/lodging/hospitality valued at over $100 must be reported (current threshold is $650).

As with other legislation pertaining to the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, Dunbar’s financial disclosure reform legislation has been referred to the House State Government Committee where it is expected to be considered during a public hearing in the near future.

Similarly, Teplitz is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 750, which is sponsored by Sens. John Eichelberger (R- Blair, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon) and Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) and would reduce the reporting requirements of a gift received to $50 and expenses for transportation and lodging or hospitality to $100.

Several other significant reform measures in both the Senate and the House pertaining to limiting or completely banning public officials from accepting cash and other gifts from outside individuals touched on at this morning’s press conference are also before the Senate and House State Government committees.

Since its inception in March 2013, the Government Reform Caucus has met regularly to develop and promote legislation to reform state government. The caucus is made up of senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle.

Video of the news conference is available online at https://www.senatorteplitz.com/videogallery/government-reform-caucus-press-conference-april-7-2014

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