A Senate plan to bolster state ethics rules would actually cripple the State Ethics Commission instead of strengthening it, stripping away much of its authority and transferring key powers to another agency…. Senator Frederick Berry, chairman of the Committee on Ethics and Rules, defended the bill, saying its authors were trying more than anything else to be evenhanded after listening to testimony that the Ethics Commission sometimes was overzealous.
HA HA HA HA!!! Oh my God, that’s hilarious — the Senate thinks the Ethics Commission has too much power!! No doubt that’s why the Senate has such an awesome ethics record recently! Oh please Senators, stop it, you’re killing me…. *wipes tears of laughter from eyes*
Oh wait a sec … that wasn’t the Onion. That was the Globe.
Now, let’s not mince words here. The Senate’s bill is a disaster. A catastrophe. Or, perhaps more optimistically, a bad joke — maybe they’re releasing the real bill later this week. There is just no rational explanation for this:
The bill would remove the right of the Ethics Commission to conduct hearings into the actions of public officials and to make findings of violations, a core part of its job.
Instead, it would turn over those duties to the state’s Division of Administrative Law Appeals, an independent agency that hears appeals from other state departments. That division, advocates said, is overburdened and not versed in the state’s convoluted conflict-of-interest law.
The Senate measure also would require the Ethics Commission to stop investigating a case if the attorney general’s office decides to launch its own criminal probe.
The Senate bill would keep the statute of limitations on ethics violations at three years. Proposals submitted by Governor Deval Patrick and approved by the House would extend the limit to five years.
Look, either we’re serious about enforcing the ethics laws in this state, or we’re not. Clearly, the Senate is not. Here’s hoping that sanity prevails in the conference committee, and that the measures proposed by the Governor and largely endorsed by the House are what emerge once the two versions are reconciled.