Editorial: Restoring public trust
Posted on Jan 15, 2014 - 01:08 PM Printer Friendly View
In the year-to-year evolution of our laws, it sometimes takes a crisis to focus the public’s attention and to build enough support for change.
Thus, the Virginia General Assembly is now poised to tighten up tremendously on its ethics rules. The embarrassment of just-departed Gov. McDonnell and his wife over Giftgate, which is still under study by the feds, has prompted something rare in today’s political climate: A bipartisan agreement on reforms to Virginia’s ethics, transparency and disclosure laws.
The executive branch has already moved on the issue, with caps of $100 for officials and their families ordered by Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring.
According to a press release, more than a dozen reforms are proposed to the General Assembly, including a $250 gift cap from lobbyists and individuals doing business with the state. Family members would fall under the law. A state commission would review disclosures and maintain a website. Officials would be trained in the law.
Virginia for many decades escaped the stain of government corruption, real or perceived; the image has been tarred in recent years by several cases, most recently and glaringly the mess of the McDonnells.
So these laws are due, in fact overdue, in that they may help to restore the trust essential between the population and its elected officials. We hope 1: that the damage has not seeped too deeply into the fabric of Virginia’s government, to the point that every official wants something in exchange for support and a vote and 2: that members of the General Assembly will follow the example of the study group, put aside the usual ugly politics, adopt its recommendations, and resolve to follow not only the letter but also the spirit of the law.