While Virginia's former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife fight a host of charges that they contend broke no ethics laws, Virginia lawmakers have advanced a series of bills that give elected officials and lobbyists a clearer picture of what's legal and what isn't.
State lawmakers sought to close some loopholes in existing law, while not making the requirements so burdensome that honest mistakes would be severely punished.
The bills that survived legislative scrutiny are now attached to the budget bills still under negotiation. The bills create a new Conflicts of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council-to review and post online the disclosure forms filed by lobbyists and officials and provide formal opinions. They set a $250 limit for tangible gifts given to officials, but do not set a cumulative cap on gifts. They also require disclosure of gifts to immediate family members and mandate more frequent filing of disclosure forms. Bill sponsor Senator Tommy Norment says while some critics believe these bills are not strong enough, he disagrees.
Norment says there have been some small disagreements, but the ethics reform bills are some of the least divisive this year, and he's confident that Governor McAuliffe will sign the finished product into law.