Hearing set on Indiana government ethics bill

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An Indiana House committee has set Dec. 16 as the day it will take up a bill to tighten lobbying and ethics rules.

The bill by Democratic House Speaker Patrick Bauer of South Bend will be heard by the House Rules Committee days before the full Legislature convenes on Jan. 5.

Bauer’s proposal would require legislators to wait a year after leaving office before becoming a Statehouse lobbyist. It also would require lobbyists to report gifts of more than $50 given to legislators and candidates. The current reporting threshold is $100.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said at a news conference in late October that his caucus was working on a similar proposal.

Nearly 30 other states have similar "revolving-door" waiting periods for lawmakers to become lobbyists, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but similar proposals have never made it out of the Indiana General Assembly. Several former Indiana lawmakers have become registered lobbyists, including some who resigned and took lobbying jobs during the next legislative session.

In 2008, some members of a Senate committee considering a waiting period bill took offense at the mere suggestion that lawmakers-turned-lobbyists may seem improper or hint of shady politics. Some said lobbyists are part of the legislative process and others questioned whether a one-year waiting period would change close relationships among lawmakers. The bill went nowhere.

The House and Senate are both holding early hearings on several bills to get a jump start on the session.

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