HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) Governor Tom Wolf has outlined his “Government that Works” Reform plan.
The plan is part of his effort to reform government in the Commonwealth and restore public trust.
It calls for the banning of gifts, contracting reform, increasing lobby oversight and increasing transparency.
Here is a break down of the plan.
*Institute a gift ban for all public officials.
Governor Wolf is calling for a gift ban that applies across all of government and builds on his administration’s executive order to ban gifts.
The governor’s Gift Ban Executive Order prohibits executive branch employees from accepting gifts from any person who has business with or is regulated by the commonwealth.
Many boards and commissions – including the PLCB and the Turnpike Commission – have implemented a gift ban, but more action is needed to make a ban permanent and to apply it broadly across government in Pennsylvania government.
Pennsylvania is one of ten states with no specific law on limits on gifts to public officials, who are free to take any gift—including cash—so long as the gift is disclosed.
The priority for the governor is a gift ban that curtails the ability of special interests to influence public officials with gifts and restores public trust in their government. Regardless of what becomes law, the governor will keep his executive order in place, but he wants a law that allows a gift ban to exist past his administration.
*Require disclosure of the amount of compensation received by public employees from outside employment and ban paid service on corporate boards.
In Pennsylvania, some public officials earn income outside of their duties in public service.
Officials are currently required to disclose sources of outside income, but not the amount paid, or any information about the work that was performed.
Governor Wolf wants to ensure all public employees disclose the amount of compensation they receive from outside employment, within specified bands.
*Implement broader “pay-to-play” provisions requiring the disclosure of campaign contributions made by parties seeking contracts.
We also need new requirements related to disclosure of campaign donations in connection with state contracts.
The governor supports efforts that would require businesses that have been awarded contracts to disclose all political contributions made by its officers and employees during the preceding year. These disclosures would be posted on the Department of State website.
Fifteen states and the City of Philadelphia require disclosure of campaign contributions for those seeking public contracts. There have been several proposals in recent legislative sessions that would require companies bidding for state contracts to disclose campaign contributions and prohibit the awarding of a contract for specified types of procurement unless the contractor included with its bid response all contributions made in the past two years.
*Increase the Department of State’s ability to review lobbying disclosures and make referrals to the Ethics Commission.
Governor Wolf will increase staffing at the Department of State to crack down on lobbyists by randomly reviewing lobbying disclosure filings for completeness and accuracy. Lobbying disclosure auditors would be tasked with initial compliance oversight of all filed returns, and upon either a failure to disclose, or material defect in either the reporting requirements or expense accounting, the auditors would have authority to conduct further forensic audits of the lobbyist or principal’s records to verify the accuracy of the information provided.
As required by the Lobbying Disclosure Law, every year the Department of State randomly selects 3% of all completed registrations and expense reports for audit by an outside CPA firm. The audit consists of finding any possible violations of the Lobbying Disclosure Act with respect to lobbying registrations and expenses, and includes compliance testing and financial review.
The results of these audits are exempt from the Right to Know Law and are not published, preventing the public from knowing whether lobbying laws have been violated. In addition to strengthening internal processes for detecting incomplete filings, the governor supports removal of this exemption.
In Maryland and Virginia, lobbying disclosure registrations and expense reports are reviewed upon receipt for compliance and accuracy by in-house legal and program staff. Initial discrepancies can trigger further review into past filings over the last few registration periods. In South Carolina, any failure to comply with the disclosure requirements may trigger an audit by that state’s ethics commission.
*Enact strong campaign finance reform.
Pennsylvanians need to have confidence that decisions made by their government are the product of a robust competition of ideas, not rewards for the special interests with the deepest pockets.
Governor Wolf supports strong campaign finance reform that would for the first time place limits on contributions to candidates seeking elected office, implement aggregate limits for races, place sensible restrictions on Political Action Committees (PACs), and strengthen reporting and disclosure requirements across the board. In addition, the prohibition of the use of campaign funds for personal expenses, including legal fees.
Pennsylvania is currently one of only twelve states that impose no contribution limits on individual donors. By enacting strong new campaign finance measures, we can help restore confidence in government, and curtail the role of campaign spending in our political process.