Lawmakers Approve Ethics Reform with Gift Cap

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Virginia lawmakers have approved a new $100 gift cap from lobbyists and others trying to influence state government.

The General Assembly agreed Friday with Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's push for tighter gift limits.

In February, lawmakers approved a $100 per gift limit during the final minutes of the regular legislative session. McAuliffe wanted a $100 per year limit, but lawmakers had to use unusual procedural motions to clarify that the governor's amendment was per year and not a lifetime cap.

Legislators have been working on Virginia's ethics rules for two years in response to a corruption scandal involving former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen.

In a release, Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Donald McEachin issued the following statement on behalf of the Caucus:

“The Senate Democratic Caucus is proud to stand with Governor McAuliffe on the issue of the aggregate $100 gift cap. This amendment represents a strong and important step towards rebuilding Virginians’ trust in government. Virginians deserve openness and transparency, and they deserve to have confidence in their leaders’ integrity. This amendment moves us further in that direction.”

Background on the amendments:

Amendments 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 26, and 29 to HB 2070 and SB 1424 together impose a $100 cumulative per-giver-per-year cap on the value of gifts that lobbyists, their principals, and other interested parties are able to give to members of the General Assembly and other public officials.

Current law sets a $250 cumulative annual cap on tangible gifts; before Gov. McAuliffe's amendments, both the House and Senate ethics bills would have changed this to a $100 single-gift cap, in effect allowing for unlimited $99 gifts from any giver.

The governor's amendments close that loophole, restoring the cumulative cap at the new, lower level for both tangible and intangible gifts.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe released the following statement Friday evening:

“I am pleased that the General Assembly has accepted my top ethics reform priority: a $100 annual aggregate cap on gifts that public officials can receive from people seeking influence with the state. This victory for transparency and accountability will strengthen the legislation passed this year significantly. It will also send Virginians a message that their leaders recognize the need to restore their trust in government.

“Increasing transparency and accountability in government is an essential part of my administration’s efforts to build a new Virginia economy. I look forward to signing this legislation, and to continue working with the General Assembly in the years to come to build on the progress we made this year.”

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