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Member's Press Release

Release Date: 02/23/2016
Contact: Jared Hunt at (304) 340-3323


Tim Armstead


House Passes Ethics Reform Bills

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The House of Delegates this week overwhelmingly passed a package of bills to reform the state Ethics Act and improve government practices.

“The citizens of West Virginia deserve to have confidence that government officials are working for the people and not themselves,” said House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha. “The House of Delegates is committed to ensuring honest, fair and transparent governmental practices. I believe these bills will help ensure the people’s government works in a more ethical manner.”

The five bills were a product of an ethics reform working group, which used testimony gathered by the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary to craft the legislation.

“Our members and attorneys have worked hard over the last few months to draft this package of bills that we believe will improve government processes across the state,” said Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer. “The people want and deserve a government that is accountable to them and operates free of conflicts of interest, and I believe this legislation will help to guarantee that.”

On Monday, the House approved three of these ethics reform bills:

House Bill 4604, Relating to violations of the Ethics Act, passed the House on a 99-0 vote.

  • Sponsors: Delegate Eric Householder (R-Berkeley), House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) and Delegates Kayla Kessinger (R-Fayette), Jill Upson (R-Jefferson), John Shott (R-Mercer), Michael Folk (R-Berkeley) and Patrick Lane (R-Kanawha)
  • The purpose of this bill is to lessen the burden of proof from a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard to a “clear and convincing” standard as the needed proof to sustain an allegation of a violation of the Ethics Act.
  • The bill also would lengthen from two to five years the statute of limitations in which to bring a complaint under the Ethics Act.
  • The bill also establishes a deadline on of one year for the Ethics Commission to investigate and make a determination as to probable cause of a violation of the Ethics Act.

    “This bill will improve the way the Ethics Commission is able to identify and prosecute ethics violations,” said lead sponsor Delegate Eric Householder, R-Berkeley. “Extending the statute of limitations beyond two years is important because many agencies are only audited once every three years, and it is these audits that often spot potential abuses. This bill will ensure those transgressions can be prosecuted and also make sure the Ethics Commission is not held to an unreasonable burden of proof when handling these cases.”

    House Bill 4605, prohibiting contracting with a state agency unless business entity submits disclosure of interested parties, also passed on a 99-0 vote.

  • Sponsors: Delegate Kayla Kessinger (R-Fayette), House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha), and Delegates John Shott (R-Mercer), Eric Householder (R-Berkeley), Jill Upson (R-Jefferson), Patrick Lane (R-Kanawha) and Michael Folk (R-Berkeley)
  • The purpose of this bill is to require the submission of a disclosure of financially interested parties to a contract with a state agency. The bill requires the disclosure form to be filed with the state agency at the time of contracting and with the West Virginia Ethics Commission.

    “Citizens want and deserve to know who is benefiting financially from government contracts,” said lead sponsor Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette. “This bill provides the transparency needed to let taxpayers know who is benefiting from public spending.”

    House Bill 4618, Relating to limitations on use of a public official's name or likeness, passed on a 94-0 vote.

  • Sponsors: Delegates Kelli Sobonya (R-Cabell), Woody Ireland (R-Ritchie), Geoff Foster (R-Putnam), Mark Zatezalo (R-Hancock), Tom Fast (R-Fayette), Larry Rowe (D-Kanawha), Frank Deem (R-Wood), Stephen Skinner (D-Jefferson), Michael Folk (R-Berkeley), Tim Manchin (D-Marion) and Justin Marcum (D-Mingo)
  • The purpose of this bill is to rewrite and codify prohibitions relating to use of public likeness or name (aka, the “Trinkets Bill” from last year). It takes updates made in the rulemaking review process and codifies them into law.

    "After a decade of introducing similar legislation, I was pleased last year when the Republican leadership advanced the ‘Trinkets Bill’ (House Bill 2457) and the House voted unanimously to end this shameless self-promotion at taxpayer expense,” said lead sponsor Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell. “I am equally pleased with the passage of House Bill 4618 this year. This bipartisan bill strengthens last year’s law even further by incorporating both the Ethics Commission’s recent advisory opinions and the actions of the Legislative Rule-Making Review Committee. The Legislature must continue to respect the taxpayers and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars."

    On Tuesday, the House also voted to approve two other bills:

  • House Bill 4001
  • , relating to candidates or candidate committees for legislative office disclosing contributions, passed on a 95-4 vote.
  • Sponsors: Delegate Jill Upson (R-Jefferson), House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) and Delegates Bill Hamilton (R-Upshur), Jordan Hill (R-Nicholas), Brian Kurcaba (R-Monongalia), Ryan Weld (R-Brooke), J.B. McCuskey (R-Kanawha), Matthew Rohrbach (R-Cabell), Chris Stansbury (R-Kanawha), Erikka Storch (R-Ohio) and Mark Zatezalo (R-Hancock)
  • The bill requires members of the Legislature, Governor and Board of Public Works to disclose contributions and fundraising events while the Legislature is in session.
  • The bill requires information on individual contributions greater than $250 to be provided within 10 days of the event or receipt of contribution, and requires the Secretary of State to publish such information on the Secretary of State’s website within one day.

    “Citizens have a right to know who is giving money to lawmakers during the legislative session, when important decisions on key matters are being made,” said Delegate Jill Upson, R-Jefferson, the lead sponsor of this bill. “This bill will provide much-needed transparency regarding fundraising activities during our legislative sessions.”

    House Bill 4606, Relating to the recusal of certain public officials from voting for appropriation of moneys to nonprofit entities, passed on a 96-2 vote.

  • Sponsors: Delegate Jill Upson (R-Jefferson), House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) and Delegates Patrick Lane (R-Kanawha), Kayla Kessinger (R-Fayette), John Shott (R-Mercer), Eric Householder (R-Berkeley) and Michael Folk (R-Berkeley)
  • The purpose of this bill is to require public officials, except members of the Legislature, to recuse themselves from voting on the appropriation of moneys or award of contract to a nonprofit corporation if the public official or an immediate family member is employed by or is an officer or board member of the nonprofit, whether compensated or not.
  • The bill additionally prohibits mayors and members of the governing body or council in most municipalities (excluding those with less than 2,000 people) from being employed by the municipality. It does allow for a municipality to ask for an exemption from the Ethics Commission if it has difficulty attracting qualified candidates for local office.

    “This bill closes a loophole that allowed public officials to vote on appropriations to nonprofits they worked with so long as they were not a ‘compensated’ employee,” said Delegate Upson, who was also lead sponsor of this legislation. “This bill will require mayors, council members or other lawmakers to recuse themselves from voting on funds that could benefit a nonprofit organization with which they are actively involved.”

    House leadership plans to pass additional reform legislation in the coming week.




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