- Family Features
- Business Directory
- Gallery Of Homes
- Subscribe Now!
- Place A Classified Ad
- New! Digital e-Edition
Lynn's ethics commission bill gets high marks
Apr 07, 2005 12:00 am
A little known piece of legislation calling for a citizens committee to police ethics in the Tennessee General Assembly is starting to get noticed amid the legislature's ongoing ethical imbroglios and a push Monday night by legislators to address them.
The bill is offered by second-term House member Rep. Susan Lynn, and in its present form calls for a revival of the Legislative Ethics Commission, a body that was set into sunset over a decade ago.
Yet, Lynn said the ultimate goal of the bill once fully researched will be to create a citizens ethics committee to oversee ethical questions and even investigations regarding the legislature.
That committee could be a more empowered and staffed version of the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, a citizens body that oversees only alleged violations of campaign finance rules.
"Obviously, it is very difficult for the legislature to police itself," Lynn said Monday. "Part of the idea is to reinvent the Registry of Election Finance into an ethics commission. There will be questions, of course, about who will serve and how they will be appointed."
Lynn said she is in the process of researching the legalities of how the commission might work with the aid of House staff, adding a Texas state law establishing a citizens ethics commission is a likely model. Under that body, the citizens commission even has investigatory power.
The bill runs parallel to a charge given to an ad hoc committee established Monday night in the General Assembly to study the possibility of an ethics commission.
House leadership said Monday night the ad hoc committee will start fresh on the idea of an ethics commission, but credited Lynn with bringing the idea to the forefront.
"Legislation like Susan Lynn's is what elevated the dialogue to help folks realize perhaps we should be looking at an ethics commission, and if not an ethics commission then revamping the Registry of Election Finance, House Republican Leader Tre' Harget said Monday night.
The concept of an ethics commission got favorable marks from activists supporting tighter ethical constraints on the General Assembly.
"I've seen the legislation, and I think basically it is a good idea," said Dick Williams, chairman of watchdog group Tennessee Common Cause. "The existing registry is set up in a fairly good, nonpartisan way, but its scope is fairly limited."
Senate leaders said they too were receptive to the idea of an ethics commission including Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Ron Ramsey.
Ramsey's committee is presently charged with investigating an ongoing series of potential ethics violations by Memphis State Sen. John Ford.
"I am very open to the idea," Ramsey said Monday. "I'm not only new to the ethics committee, but I am new to the chair. We have been ploughing new ground here."
Managing Editor Clint Brewer can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 13 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.