DeLeo seeks panel to examine Massachusetts' ethics, campaign, lobbying laws

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BOSTON >> House Speaker Robert DeLeo is mounting a push to create a Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government, which would look at the laws governing the conduct of public officials and lobbyists as well as financial disclosure and campaign finance statutes.

According to a copy of a resolve DeLeo is sponsoring, the 11-member task force would be helmed by the chairmen of the House and Senate Ethics committees, Rep. Christopher Markey of Dartmouth and Sen. Cynthia Creem of Newton.

The panel would also look at conflict of interest laws and the regulations of the State Ethics Commission.

The group, which would consider extending the lobbying laws to cover municipal lobbying, would be required to report legislative recommendations along with results of its investigation by Dec. 23, 2016. The task force would be required to confer with officials who oversee ethics, lobbying and campaign finance laws "as well as with academics, practitioners and others with expertise in these areas."

The resolve is silent on whether public hearings would be held.

Other members of the task force would include Attorney General Maura Healey or her designee; a member of the House Committee on Ethics appointed by House Minority Leader Brad Jones; a member of the Senate Committee on Ethics appointed by Minority Leader Bruce Tarr; Lon Povich, Gov. Baker's chief legal counsel; Jim Kennedy, chief legal counsel to the House; Jennifer Miller, chief legal counsel to the Senate; and three members with expertise on issues relating to ethics, public integrity or campaign finance. Gov. Charlie Baker, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, and DeLeo would each get to appoint one of the experts.

DeLeo in February said top elected officials were behind a plan to create a task force to review ethics laws and propose changes. After meeting with Baker, Rosenberg and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, DeLeo said the group first discussed creating a task force in 2015.

"It's to review all of the conflict of interest laws, ethics laws, that we have in the commonwealth with the idea that some may be strengthened because they haven't been looked at for a period of time, some may have to be updated, again, because they haven't been looked at in a period of time, and some have to be clarified actually," DeLeo said on Feb. 29.

Rosenberg said in February that he has been in favor of looking at ethics laws "for a while" and was on board with DeLeo's task force idea.

"I think there is a lot of confusion in the law and I think it's a moving target," Rosenberg said. "In private meetings with the Ethics Commission last year and the year before we had wide-ranging discussions and by the time the conversations were over members were more confused about what was allowed and not allowed under the law and regulations than before the discussion took place." He added, "It's time to take a deep dive and find out what we need to do to clarify these rules and maybe statutes, statutes and maybe rules."


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