VA Lawmakers Eye Disclosure Reforms - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

VA Lawmakers Eye Disclosure Reforms

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After months of reports about the gifts controversy surrounding Governor Bob McDonnell and a wealthy campaign donor, lawmakers in Richmond say they are ready to look at putting new rules on the books to prevent similar conflicts in the future.

"We thought for a long time that these were scandals waiting to happen, and we've believed for a long time we've had to change some of the disclosure rules," Charlottesville Delegate David Toscano said Wednesday.

Right now, elected leaders must report gifts worth more than $50. But there is no limit on those gifts, and the rule does not apply to family members.

Republican and Democratic leaders in the Virginia legislature agree some steps need to be taken to change Virginia's gifts rules, but they disagree on how best to do it.

Democrats support a plan to ban gifts above a certain threshold, and institute broader restrictions to include family members.

"The public wants to be restored in their views about elected officials," Toscano said. "Most of them try to do the best thing they can all the time."

Republican leaders in the House of Delegates announced Tuesday they are open to some reforms, like reporting gifts to family members and training politicians in disclosures. But some will not likely support an all-out ban on gifts.

"There's a tremendous amount of resistance among the legislators," University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato said.

Virginia's gifts laws are some of the laxest in the country, and Sabato says voters should keep that in mind heading into November.

"People have an opportunity now, while all 100 members of the House of Delegates are on the ballot, to press their legislative candidates hard about this issue," he said.

Democrats also support the formation of an independent ethics commission to police public officials when these types of issues arise. Similar proposals came up four years ago in 2009 in the wake of another ethics scandal that put a Virginia delegate behind bars. None of those bills ever made it to the governor's desk.

Both candidates for governor have also weighed in on disclosure reform. Democrat Terry McAuliffe supports banning all gifts above $100 to elected leaders and their families. He also supports the formation of an ethics commission. Republican Ken Cuccinelli also supports a cap on the size and types of gifts, but has not offered a specific proposal. He has, however, proposed a mandatory 10-day reporting period for gifts exceeding $500, and supports disclosing gifts to immediate family.

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