A big news item in our humble state has been ethics reform, ever since it has come to light that our Governor and Attorney General accepted some pretty outlandish gifts from a businessman friend. I gotta say that, for as staid as our folks in the General Assembly like to portray themselves, it's surprising to me that someone could give an elected person a $10k watch and, not only was it legal but that it violated no ethics laws. Wow.
So, it appears that a main feature of the upcoming session will be some sort of effort to reform the "ethics" standards amongst our state-level elected folks. I read with interest an interview with Delegate Marshall on the subject. He says that it is hard to imagine that the General Assembly would attach criminal penalties to ethics violations because of the peril of "unintentional violations". Wouldn't it be nice if we could all use that logic? Think we could get the General Assembly to legislate higher speed limits on downhill sections of the road due to the hazard of "unintentional violations?"
If it seems like I'm pissed off about this it is because I am. Let me tell you how this works at the local level: say a local business wants to get input from Council members privately before he submits some project. He'll call up and ask if I would be willing to meet for lunch. I say sure, same as I would (and have) done for any constituent. We go to lunch. We talk. The bill comes. I either pay it in full or just my half. It isn't reimbursable either. When there's a bigger meeting between a private interest and the City, the City pays. I have a friend who owns a nice piece of vacation property. Before I was elected I could stay there almost whenever I wanted to and only pay about $50 for the cleaning lady. The day I was elected that stopped. I had to pay full freight. $50 a week became $2500. Delegate Marshall is concerned about getting "free tips from a golf pro." How about this: pay for your tips like the rest of us?
Look, I've got nothing against Del Marshall, he just happened to be the one in the story. However, I think the $100 limit that has been kicked around is more than enough and that this is a very straightforward issue.