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Knapik on front lines of ethics legislation

Date: 5/26/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- State Sen. Michael Knapik is on the front lines of ethics reform at home and on Beacon Hill.

The Senate and House of Representatives each passed a version of a new ethics reform bill, creating stringent templates for lobbyists' and government employees' ethical behavior. Knapik, a member of the Senate's Ethics Committee, gained critical insight as a member of Gov. Deval Patrick s Public Integrity Task Force -- the committee charged with formulating the principles of for a new Ethics Reform Bill.

"The Commonwealth's existing laws pertaining to ethics and lobbying were enacted separately, at different times, and we are in need of a thorough review," Knapik said. "Massachusetts citizens have entrusted public officials with operating our government in a transparent and honest manner and it is imperative we work to maintain and bolster this confidence."

The Senate's version of the bill prohibits lobbyists from making campaign contributions; redefines a "gift" versus "bribery" and calls for up to 10 years in jail and/or a $100,000 fine for a bribery conviction. The bill also allows the Division of Administrative Law Appeals to work in conjunction with the Ethics Committee on cases of ethics violations.

The Senate's bill creates harsher punishments for violators including "increasing late filing penalties for lobbyists to $50 per day for the first 20 days and $100 per day thereafter; increasing criminal penalties for lobbyist registration violations to five years imprisonment, $10,000 fine, or both; increasing penalties for late-filed campaign reports from $10 per day and not more than $2,500 to $25 per day and not more than $5,000."

State Rep. Jeffery Perry, ranking member of the House Ethics Committee, noted that amendments to the House's bill will require individuals to report bribes, corrupt gifts and monies gained from illegal activities for state income tax purposes; prohibit convicted felons from registering as lobbyists in the Commonwealth; and prohibit the use of campaign account funds to pay off ethics violation fines."

"The people of Massachusetts deserve better from their elected officials than we have seen in recent years," Perry said.

The Senate and House versions of the ethics reform bill are currently under review by a joint conference committee, which will formulate a cohesive legislation for Patrick's signature.