Locals affected by cash gift ban
HARRISBURG - A cash gift ban bill approved by the Senate on Wednesday will have a direct impact from the statehouse to local municipal authorities if it becomes law, bill sponsor Sen. Lisa Baker said.
The measure headed to the House would apply to state lawmakers, elected and appointed officials at the state and local level and state and local public employees. This would cover townships, boroughs, cities, counties, school boards and municipal authorities, said Baker, R-20, Lehman Twp.
The measure specifically bans cash gifts from lobbyists and individuals seeking an official action such as a vote for a bill or contract. But it provides exceptions for political campaign contribution, prizes in a public contest, commercial loans made during the ordinary course of business and cash gifts from immediate family members and other relatives including stepparents and siblings-in-law not tied to an official action.
Another exception provides for a cash gift involving a "reasonable consideration of equal or greater value."
This would allow an official who owns a diner to serve a meal for a customer at the regular price, for example, said Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-9, Chester.
"We tried to incorporate those everyday situations (in the bill)," said Baker.
She said an education effort will be necessary for any new law to be effective.
Baker started drafting the bill several months ago with the example of the Luzerne County public corruption scandal in mind. More than 30 public officials in Luzerne County were snared in a federal corruption probe and a number were prosecuted for taking unreported gifts.
But the revelations last month that four House lawmakers allegedly took large cash gifts from a confidential state informant during a sting operation but didn't report them spurred the Senate action.