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New Bill Aims to Make Ethics Complaints Public

WLTX

Freshman Senator Scott Talley introduced a new ethics bill before the Senate adjourned Thursday.

It would address the process by which the ethics committees handles cases with probable cause, by requiring a public hearing before taking any action.

“What we did is look at the ethics bill that was passed last session, and we’re trying to clean that up a little bit to provide more transparency in the process,” Talley said. “Also to clearly define that there is an independent investigation that is going to be done on any complaint like those that fall under the act.”

To avoid ‘self policing,’ lawmakers passed an independent investigations ethics bill last session, which will go into effect this April. That bill changed the structure of the Ethics Commission, giving them the responsibility to investigate and determine probable cause on cases.

Those cases with probable cause then get sent to either the House or Senate Ethics Committees, who can then decide whether to accept, reject, or delay the case behind closed doors.

That’s where the change in this bill would come in. House and Senate Ethics committees would be required to hold a public hearing before making that decision.

“I think this fixes the main problem with the act that was put in place last year, it provides more transparency, it provides for public hearings, so that investigations into those complaints will be made public,” Talley said. “I think that’s what people expect when we deal with ethics issues.”

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