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Would-Be Reformers Get An I.O.U. On Gift Ban

Government reform advocates have long pushed for tighter ethics laws, and indignation was in abundant supply this year after state lawmakers were dogged by scandals.

But after much talk, the leader of the Senate GOP is pledging to support a full gift prohibition — next year.

The ban, proposed by a couple Senate Republicans, would apply to public officials and public employees across the state.

Lawmakers have discussed more incremental reforms for over a year. Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin) has been pushing a bill to require lawmakers and others to report more of the gifts they receive by setting lower dollar thresholds.

"The brightest line would be no gifts, period," Teplitz said. "This bill would be a strong step towards that by requiring greater disclosure and therefore having people give second thought before they accept something."

But Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi isn't supporting the baby steps approach.

"The senator's position is that's not far enough," said spokesman Erik Arneson. The state's ethics law is revisited infrequently, he added. "Whatever the next improvement is will probably become the status quo for a decade or more."

Arneson's comment comes less than two months before an election in which the GOP is focused on keeping its majority in the Senate.

Both the House and Senate enacted rules this year to stop lawmakers from taking cash gifts, but the restrictions don't have the force of law.

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