Christine Stuart photo

The House Democrats held a press conference Monday to talk about their
ethics proposals,
which include banning legislators from working for quasi-public agencies and banning lobbyists from being appointed to state or local boards and commissions.

Speaker James Amann, D-Milford, said it’s about improving confidence in government and coming up with an enforceable ethics code, for the “few bad apples.” Amann observed that ethics reform is an ongoing theme for both parties who are rallying around a core of ethics reforms in 2008.

Last week House Republicans unveiled this proposal on ethics. At least one of the proposals matches what the Democrats discussed Monday.

Both House Democrats and Republicans want to leave the policing of ethics violations to the Office of State Ethics, while the members of the Senate on both sides of the aisle seem to be lining up behind a proposal that would create a bipartisan committee of legislators to police their own. The bipartisan committee would be similar to the one formed to investigate former Senator Louis DeLuca.

DeLuca resigned before the six-member committee of legislators could take action this fall, but Senators seemed to think there was a need for a similar process, in case they’re faced with a situation in the future.

Rep. Chris Caruso, chairman of the General Administration and Elections Committee said Monday that such a panel didn’t work in the 1970s and it won’t work now. Caruso said if legislators were asked to police their own there would be unwarranted attacks and retaliation. “You’re gonna have witch hunt after witch hunt,” Caruso said.

He said he would support forming a panel of lawmakers to punish one of their own only after they were found in violation of the ethics code by the Office of State Ethics.

Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats seem to disagree. Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Southport, who took over as top Republican in the Senate after DeLuca stepped down sent this letter to Senate President Donald Williams saying the Republicans would like to form a bipartisan committee of legislators to investigate ethical violations of their colleagues.

In September, Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford, came out with this plan to reform ethics in state government.

How is it that these reforms are based on caucus politics and not party politics?