Senate, House debate bills on creation of ethics committee

BISAMRCK, N.D. - State lawmakers are considering two bills dealing with the creation of an ethics commission after voters passed Measure One in November.

On Tuesday, Senate Bill 2148 was discussed for the third time in the ethics committee. Several senators proposed different amendments to the original bill around the definition of a lobbyist, how contributions are reported, and who, if anyone would be imposing fines and reviewing the rules of the body.

“We'll probably come to the next legislative session and say you know we might do this differently or that so we are actually dealing with legislation now we're not passing a constitutional measure,” said Sen. Tim Mathern.

A final version was passed with some amendments, and the bill was moved to appropriations with a do pass vote.

Meanwhile, the House is also looking at bill 1521 for third time. This bill states public officials may not accept gifts from lobbyists for more than $60 per event. It also says complaints would be kept confidential until findings are issued. Kathy Tweeten with North Dakotans for Public Integrity, the group that got measure one on the ballot, answered questions about code of conduct and transparency and how the ethics commission would deal with that.

“They would set some very specific standards to guide that code of conduct that would be very clear to everyone what they should or should not do or can or cannot do,” said Tweeten.

The bill did not pass in committee as a study, but will be revisited Thursday morning.