Monday, July 26, 2010

PA Lawmakers Propose New Ethics Commission

Outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia today, a group of bipartisan legislators proposed a Public Integrity Commission to combat public corruption in the state of Pennsylvania. State Representatives Curt Schroder, Mike Vereb and John Yudichak were joined by groups Common Cause and the League of Women Voters to propose in detail the new ethics commission. Yudichak believes this legislation is their way of acting “boldly and swiftly to restore the ideals of good, honest government.”

Schroder says the commission will be a “permanent investigative body to root out and prevent public corruption at all levels and branches of government in Pennsylvania.”

Representative Mike Vereb of Montgomery County says the seven-member commission would make annual reports to the General Assembly, including recommendations for legislative and administrative action.
-- It would have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents, seek immunity orders from commonwealth court, obtain information from individuals who invoke their 5th amendment rights, and refer criminal violations to the proper authorities for prosecution.
-- The panel would also incorporate the current state ethics commission, and take over its duties regarding financial interest statements and conflicts of interest.
-- In addition, it will have trained, certified, law-enforced personnel with the authority to enforce laws related to public corruption. This will provide access to law enforcement records and investigative information.
-- Vereb says it would be better equipped than the existing ethics commission to take a proactive approach to end public corruption.

Fifteen committee members will be nominated by a panel of law school deans, district attorneys and members of government reform advocacy groups. Seven of the 15 will be selected by the governor. The commissioners nominated by the governor would then need to be confirmed by the Senate.

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