House Ethics Committee Proposes Stronger, Clearer Rules Governing Conduct, Say Petri, Longietti
HARRISBURG — Rep. Scott Petri (R-Bucks), majority chairman of the bipartisan House Ethics Committee, and Rep. Mark Longietti (D-Mercer), minority chairman, held a public meeting of the committee Monday to vote on proposed changes to House rules beginning with the next legislative session, which convenes in January.
“At the beginning of each legislative term, the House establishes the rules that will govern it for the two-year session,” said Petri. “The committee’s recommendations, which received the committee’s unanimous approval, would clarify and strengthen the House Ethical Conduct Rules and the rights and responsibilities of the House Ethics Committee, which is charged with addressing matters involving conflicts of interest or job-related misconduct by House members, staff and officers. The committee’s recommendations clear up ambiguities in our House rules and provide the committee with a clearer path to resolution of issues that come before it.”
“These recommendations reflect a desire to clarify and improve the Ethics Committee’s role and processes,” said Longietti. “It is my hope that they will be considered as House rules are developed for the 2017-18 legislative session.”
In addition to providing the committee with clarification on requirements and procedural matters governing meetings, hearings and investigations, the proposed new rules would also permit the committee to issue advisory opinions on legislative ethics, decorum and matters involving legislative nonprofit organizations.
While preserving and reinforcing due process rights for anyone under investigation, the proposed rules would also clarify the burden of proof necessary at each stage of the process. The changes would also further protect the committee from being used to target political challengers prior to an election. It would be prohibited from initiating complaints against any member within 60 days of an election in which the member is a candidate.
Other noteworthy proposed changes would provide the committee with clarification on when it is permitted or required to hire independent counsel; when it is authorized to issue and enforce subpoenas; the timeframe in which the committee is required to act; the committee’s authority to sanction members and House employees; the committee’s authority to define potential sanctions; and the committee’s authority to defer cases to prosecutorial entities investigating the same or similar conduct as that before the committee.
The committee’s recommendations will go before the full House for consideration in January.
Representative Scott Petri
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Donna Pinkham