Legislators and lobbyists have new rules to live by as of July 15, 2014.
The 2014 Kentucky General Assembly adopted a new law (House Bill 28) strengthening the state’s Code of Legislative Ethics for the first time since the Code’s adoption in 1993.
With these improvements, Kentucky solidifies its stature as the state with the most effective and comprehensive legislative ethics law in the nation.
All provisions of the new law take effect on July 15, and some will have immediate impact. Those are:
· The ethics code will now include a “no cup of coffee” provision, meaning as of July 15, lobbyists and their employers will be prohibited from buying a meal, or even a cup of coffee, for an individual legislator, legislative candidate, or a legislator or candidate’s spouse or child. There is no change in the law regarding events to which recognized groups of legislators are invited. See KRS 6.811(4).
· The new law states that a legislative agent “shall not directly solicit, control, or deliver a campaign contribution, for a candidate or legislator.” Lobbyists are already prohibited from giving campaign contributions to legislators and candidates at any time, and while a lobbyist can speak in support or opposition to legislators or candidates, the lobbyist should not directly solicit, control, or deliver a campaign contribution to a legislator, group of legislators, or a legislative candidate. See KRS 6.811(5).
· The new law prohibits lobbyists and their employers from paying for out-of-state transportation or lodging for a legislator. See KRS 6.747(2).
The following provisions are effective July 15, but relate to activities during sessions of the General Assembly:
· During regular sessions of the General Assembly, legislators and legislative candidates will be prohibited from accepting campaign contributions from an employer of a lobbyist, or from a permanent committee (PAC) as defined in KRS 121.015. See KRS 6.767(2) and KRS 6.811(7).
· The new law will require businesses and organizations which employ lobbyists to report the cost of advertising which appears during a session of the General Assembly, and which supports or opposes legislation, if the cost is paid by an employer or a person or organization affiliated with an employer.
“Advertising" means statements disseminated to the public either in print, by radio or television broadcast, or by any other electronic means, including Internet or telephonic communications, and may include direct or bulk mailings of printed materials. See KRS 6.821(4)(a)5.
For over 20 years, while many state legislatures have experienced serious bribery and corruption scandals, Kentucky’s ethics law has helped prevent those kinds of episodes.
In recent years, six of the states surrounding Kentucky have seen legislators convicted on charges such as bribery, extortion, and mail fraud. In several states, including Alaska, New York, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, numerous legislators of both parties have gone to prison.
By adopting these new ethics law provisions, the Kentucky General Assembly has reinforced its commitment to ethical decision-making in the legislative arena. The new law is based on recommendations developed by Legislative Ethics Commission members, former State Rep. Pat Freibert and former Court of Appeals Judge Paul Gudgel.
Kentucky’s Code of Legislative Ethics, including the new provisions, applies to legislators and lobbyists who attend legislative conferences in other states.
The major conferences this summer will be:
· *National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Summit in Minneapolis, Minnesota from August 19 - 22 at the Minneapolis Convention Center, with speakers including U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, former Utah Governor and Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt, General Wesley Clark (Ret.), and Morning Joe host and former U.S. Representative Joe Scarborough.
· *Southern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas from July 26 – 30 at the Statehouse Convention Center, with speakers including Senator Mark Norris of Tennessee, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, and Curt Hebert of the Bipartisan Policy Center.
· *American Legislative Exchange Council Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas from July 30 – August 1 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, with speakers including North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, Heritage Foundation President and former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.