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Momentum builds for ethics legislation

By Joe Dashiell, jdashiell@wdbj7.com
Published On: Jul 23 2013 08:38:15 PM EDT
Updated On: Jul 23 2013 09:46:58 PM EDT

Virginia law doesn't limit gifts to elected leaders, but it requires them to disclose anything over 50 dollars. While some lawmakers are calling for new restrictions, it appears more likely that they'll tweak the system for disclosing big gifts.

As the Governor's troubles have mounted, so have calls for legislation that would limit gifts to public officials, or do more to insure their disclosure.

And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they expect a flood of bills. Democratic Senator John Edwards would support a cap.

"Whether we do it like the federal system which is anything over $50 dollars cannot be received, or a $100, some kind of cap I think makes a lot of sense," he said Tuesday. "And I think there will be a lot of support to do that.  I really do."

Democratic Delegate Onzlee Ware wouldn't ban gifts, but says reporting requirements need more attention, defining for example who qualifies as a family member, or a personal friend.

"It seems tedious," Ware told WDBJ7, "but it's just open now. And to me it allows a person to be within the law but perhaps skirt the spirit of the law."

Hollins University Political Science Professor Ed Lynch says he expects plenty of talk, and less action on the issue.

"Yes, I do believe there will be a slew of bills," Lynch said. "No I don't think many of them will pass. I think we might see some additional regulation involving members of politicians' families, but I doubt it will go much beyond that."

Tuesday afternoon, Republican leaders in the House of Delegates said they would support "strong reforms," including new reporting requirements on gifts to immediate family members, and other changes that would enhance the state's current disclosure system.