Conflicts and ethics bills in the 2018 Session

March 14, 2018

Filing and deadlines
SB 298/HB 990 (Norment/Gilbert) clarifies that the authority of the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council (Council) to grant extensions from the deadline for filing disclosure forms does not extend to filings made by a candidate for public office, as such candidate filings are not filed with the Council. This will become law in July.

HB 992 (Gilbert) provides that only one disclosure statement per calendar year is required under the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act for an individual who, subsequent to filing the required disclosure statement for the individual’s current position or office, holds or seeks a different position or office that also requires the filing of a disclosure statement. An individual who has filed the required statement and is reappointed to the same position or office is not required to file a second statement if the reappointment occurs within 12 months of the earlier filing. This will become law in July.

Conflicts and ethics study
SJ 75 (Norment), which passed both houses, establishes a two-year joint subcommittee consisting of six legislative members and two nonlegislative citizen members to study the current ethics laws in the Commonwealth. In conducting its study, the joint subcommittee shall study the disclosure requirements of the members of the General Assembly and lobbyists and identify those portions of the ethics laws that should be repealed, substantially amended, rewritten for clarity, or retained in their present form. In its review, the joint subcommittee shall examine the effectiveness and efficiency of the ethics laws in promoting public trust and confidence in the service of public officials.

Although the language of the study focuses on the General Assembly and Lobbyist provisions of the law, changes to these sections will likely result in changes to the State and Local Government Conflicts Act and thus impact local government officials. VACo will follow this study closely and give input to the study committee.

School board hiring bill
HB 212/SB 214 (Wright/Black) allows any school district to invoke the current exemption from the prohibition against hiring, under certain circumstances, a school district employee who is related to a member of the school board. The exemption states that the prohibition shall not apply to employment by any school division provided that (i) the member certifies that he had no involvement with the hiring decision and (ii) the superintendent certifies to the remaining members of the governing body in writing that the employment is based upon merit and fitness and the competitive rating of the qualifications of the individual and that no member of the board had any involvement with the hiring decision. Current law limits use of the exemption to only certain school districts.

VACo Contact: Phyllis Errico, Esq., CAE

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