House Passes Scaled-Back Ethics Commission Bill

May 1, 2017

The Vermont House has given its approval to legislation that creates an ethics commission to investigate ethics complains about state officials. 

Backers of the legislation say the commission is needed because Vermont is one of the few states in the country that doesn't have such a panel in place.

The legislation creates a five-member commission that would review allegations of ethics violations. Formal complaints would be sent to the attorney general's office for further investigation.

Candidates for legislative and statewide office would be required to list all sources of income in excess of $5,000 but not the exact amount.

In addition, all officeholders and members of the executive branch would be prohibited from lobbying for one year after leaving government service.

Stowe Rep. Heidi Scheuermann said it was critical to pass the bill.

"At this point in our history the general public has little faith in our governments,” she said.

The bill also requires financial disclosure information from the spouses of officeholders. Barre City Rep. Paul Poirier objected to this provision.

"Some wives, some spouses, some domestic partners are very private and they don't want to be involved in the openness that we operate under,"  said Poirier.

But Burlington Rep. Curt McCormack supported this approach.

"It may be a hassle for us to provide it, maybe certain things we may not want to provide, but the public is demanding these things of candidates these days," said McCormack.  

The bill does not include a plan backed by the Senate to require all legislative and statewide candidates to release their tax returns.