Politics

July 9, 2013

State's 'F' spurs new ethics laws for Maine officials

Reforms in disclosures and to slow the 'revolving door' to lobbying are called 'a major departure.'

By NAOMI SCHALIT and JOHN CHRISTIE Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

In this 2002 file photo, Shapleigh Middle School seventh-graders use their laptops in the hallway outside the Senate chamber as lawmakers and lobbyists go about business at the Maine State House in Augusta. Maine's "F" grade for government integrity, issued last year by a national group, has led to reforms in the state's ethics rules, including a bipartisan transparency bill proposed by Gov. Paul LePage that he signed into law last week. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

"But while you're doing the people's business, you can't be simultaneously attending to your own self-interest," she said.

A bill to study further ethics reform failed, as did a bill to stop high-level executive branch officials from moving directly into jobs in industries they regulated, said Luther.

"That's one area that requires further action," said Luther, and the League of Women Voters plans to bring a new proposal to lawmakers.

Gordon Witkin, a spokesman for the Center for Public Integrity, which produced the national report, said the center was "heartened" to see the report contribute information crucial to reform efforts.

"Substantive" changes have been passed in six states, said Witkin: Maine, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Florida and Rhode Island.

"We feel as if the project writ large drew attention to major, major issues of transparency and accountability," said Witkin.

Those issues "may have been under-covered or underappreciated in the past, particularly given the deep cuts in state house reporting that have occurred over the past decade or so."

 

Ann Luther, advocacy director for the Maine League of Women Voters, is a board member of, and donor to, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting.

 

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service based in Hallowell.

Email: mainecenter@gmail.com

 

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