Should lawmakers continue to receive gifts, and if so, how should those gifts be reported? Those are the questions the State Ethics Commission and lawmakers are batting around. Since July 1, lobbyists no longer are allowed to spend more than $100 during a calendar year on meals, tickets or gifts for each elected official or state employee. The previous annual limit was $300. New rules also require lobbyists to disclose gifts after spending more than $10 during each six-month period. Lobbyists previously were required to report gifts of $50 or more. During a press conference last week where Republicans talked about their legislative agenda, Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, proposed another idea. Just make it easier to report the gifts and the expenses and do it immediately.
“We need to have clarity in the system. Quite frankly, I don’t know if it will ever happen in this state. But my own personal opinion, is if you had full disclosure for every nickel as close to time to spent as possible, I think that would solve a lot of problems,” Coffee said. “Rather than having all these rules on timing that create complexity, let’s just report every dime right after it’s spent. I think you as members of the media will be able to ferret out and identify situations and the public can make up their own mind.”
While Coffee favors immediate reporting, others are proposing a ban on gifts to lawmakers all together.
John Wood, a member of the board of Common Cause Oklahoma has proposed the amendment, although commissioners have yet to agree to support it.
Commissioners will hold a hearing Jan. 23 on the proposals and then vote on which ones they will recommend to legislators. Lawmakers may only vote down the proposals; the proposals take effect if legislators take no action.