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Ethics-The New Buzz Word in Politics

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007   


After a series of corruption scandals in recent years, ethics are a big priority for federal and state lawmakers. Here in Oregon, House lawmakers are getting national attention for changing the chamber rules to immediately ban gifts, rather than waiting until the adoption of final ethics legislation. Peggy Kerns, director of the Ethics Center at the National Conference of State Legislatures, says it's a very unusual move.

"It's impressive that they feel so strongly about these provisions that they would pass them themselves for their chamber while at the same time moving forward with a piece of legislation."

House Speaker Jeff Merkley explains they wanted the climate to change on day one.

"People do not serve in the legislature in order to receive gifts. The gifts deeply damage the contract with the voters. We need to be able to say to the citizens of the state: 'We are here doing your business.'"

The new House ethics rules bar lawmakers from accepting any gifts worth more than ten dollars, and require them to pay for their own meals and entertainment when they're out with lobbyists. Critics say the ten dollar ban is too strict. The Oregon Senate is expected to vote on its rules in the coming weeks.



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