State ethics laws in store for high-level review

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STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, FEB. 29, 2016…..The top four elected officials in the state are behind a plan to create a task force to review the state ethics laws and propose changes, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Monday.

After meeting with Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg on Monday, the speaker said the group first discussed creating a task force about six months ago and is now talking about what the makeup of the task force should be.

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“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.

Sen. Brian Joyce, who has been under a cloud of suspicion following multiple reports in the Boston Globe questioning the longtime senator’s ethics, announced last week he will not seek re-election in the fall.

The Ethics Commission previously investigated whether Joyce had used his position as a state senator to receive a discount on designer sunglasses that he purchased from a business in his district as gifts for fellow senators, but declined to take any action.

Rosenberg said he has been in favor of looking at ethics laws “for a while” and is fully 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.”

DeLeo’s office said last week that it hopes the task force can complete its work in 60 days so any recommended changes to the ethics laws could be taken up by the Legislature this session.

Copyright 2016 State House News Service

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