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HARRISBURG, March 25, 2014 — Following recent allegations that elected officials accepted gifts from lobbyists and others but did not report them, state Sen. Anthony H. Williams said today he will introduce a bill to tighten Pennsylvania’s ethics act.
Williams, a Democrat representing parts of Philadelphia and Delaware counties, said his proposal would ban cash gifts to public officials from anyone seeking business with that public official, limit non-monetary gifts worth more than $100 from a single donor per year, mandate annual ethics training from the State Ethics Commission for all commonwealth employees, require quarterly Statements of Financial Interest filings, create enhanced criminal and civil penalties for all violations, and hold legislators and other public officers to a higher standard of accountability than their employees.
“With power comes responsibility,” Sen. Williams said today. “We must be more accountable to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania. I hope the redoubling of our efforts in the area of ethical conduct will finally give all residents the trust in us they rightly deserve.”
Sen. Williams brings aspects of legislation recently proposed by other state lawmakers under the headline of his proposal, which has not yet been formally introduced.
“People do not always want something from us when they offer a gift, but when they do, each recipient of a gift must know that it is incumbent upon them to let their constituents know what it was, who it was from and how much it cost,” he said.
Williams’ bill would reform Pennsylvania’s Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, which currently mandates that lawmakers and other required executives report direct or indirect interest in real estate; creditors owed more than $6,500; sources of income if more than $1,300; name, address and source of “the amount of any gift or gifts valued in the aggregate at $250 or more; and the identity of anyone who pays or reimburses transportation, lodging or hospitality expenses exceeding $650 per year.
Sen. Williams said his bill offers “clear and commonsense guidelines” that will reinforce public trust in elected officials.