Ethics reform gets committee approval

(WISH Photo, file)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – State lawmakers are looking for ways to improve their image following recent scandals in state government. It’s why an ethics reform bill advanced in the General Assembly Tuesday.

Ethics reform is the top priority for House Speaker Brian Bosma and he made a rare appearance in front of a House committee to argue for it.

A 2014 scandal involving former lawmaker Eric Turner prompted a call for lawmakers to make more of their personal financial information public and that’s what the Speaker’s ethics reform bill calls for.

“The goal here is to strengthen the disclosure to the public,” said Bosma, “and to strengthen the transparency.”

It also addresses problems raised in scandals involving former lawmaker Troy Woodruff and former state school Superintendent Tony Bennett.

The spokesman for watchdog organization Common Cause gave a stamp of approval.

“It goes a long way toward safeguarding trust,” said Julia Vaughn, “because, as the Speaker said, I think that has to be your goal.”

But one lawmaker says no legislation will go far enough. Republican David Wolkins of Winona Lake also said that required ethics training the bill is unnecessary.

“If you haven’t got ethics in the first 20 years of your life,” he said, “you’re not going to get it in one hour afterward.”

But for the speaker it’s about appearances..

“It’s not a culture of corruption as some might say,” he told the committee, “because men and women here I know personally are men and women of integrity, but it is a culture perhaps of inattention to potential appearances of conflict.”

The committee passed the bill in a unanimous vote.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath is a co-author of the bill which now goes to the full House and almost certain passage.

There is no guarantee, however, that it can prevent the next scandal.

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