Ethics bill gets final legislative approval

The most sweeping bill in years to tighten Indiana ethics and lobbying rules for lawmakers and the executive branch cleared
its final legislative hurdle with bipartisan support Tuesday and appeared likely to become law.

The bill authored by Speaker Patrick Bauer and co-sponsored by Minority Leader Brian Bosma passed the House on a 97-0 vote
Tuesday. It now goes to Gov. Mitch Daniels for his likely signature into law.

"I think it's going to be remembered as one of the best things that have happened this session," Daniel told

The measure with provisions due to begin taking effect July 1 would bar lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for one year after
they leave the General Assembly and require lobbyists to report any gifts worth $50 or more — including meals, drinks
and tickets to events — instead of the current $100 limit. It also bars incumbents or candidates for statewide office
from raising campaign funds during budget-writing legislative sessions.

Bauer said it was the most significant ethics bill to win Indiana legislative approval in 25 or 30 years.

"I think this is a good effort by both parties and both chambers," the South Bend Democrat said.

Bosma, R-Indianapolis, noted the ethics changes were not occurring under a cloud of scandal but were motivated by integrity
and transparency.

"It's a major accomplishment of this General Assembly," Bosma said.

The Senate version of the bill needed Bauer's assent if it were to avoid a conference committee and perhaps become snared
on last-minute machinations as the Legislature moved toward a likely adjournment this week.

The Senate removed so-called "pay-to-play" language that would have barred vendors holding or seeking state contracts
worth $100,000 or more per year from donating to the campaigns of candidates seeking state office. The Senate also added language
that would require university liaisons to the General Assembly to register as lobbyists and bar statewide elected officials
from using tax dollars for ads that mention themselves by name.

A key provision in Bauer's bill that the Senate kept would require lobbyists to report conflicts of interest involving
more than one of their clients and how the lobbyists would resolve those conflicts.

Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, guided the bill through her chamber with all 50 senators as sponsors. She said a key
provision was more transparency in reporting of lobbyists' gifts to lawmakers and said it might reveal things that surprise
some observers of the legislative process.

"I think there are people who are concerned that there may be things happening in this area that aren't, and with
more thorough reporting the public will be able to see more accurately what transpires," Miller said.

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