Weeks after a pair of high-profile bribery and illicit campaign finance cases involving state officials, Governor Hogan has proposed a handful of measures to fight political corruption and boost government transparency.
“We cannot allow a culture of corruption to grow and take root in our state,” Hogan said on the State House steps in Annapolis today. He later added, “When legislators are being charged with taking cash bribes to sell their votes, it is time for action to be taken to finally clean up this mess in Annapolis.”
Just over two weeks ago, Mayor Catherine Pugh’s former campaign aide Gary Brown, Jr. was set to be sworn in as a replacement delegate for Barbara Robinson, who was appointed to fill Pugh’s vacated seat in the Maryland Senate in December. But the day before Hogan would have official appointed him, state prosecutors charged Brown with making $18,000 in illegal “straw” contributions to Pugh’s campaign using family members’ bank accounts.
Days earlier, Prince George’s County Liquor Board director David Son and two other elected officials were arrested on federal bribery charges. Authorities said Son brokered cash bribes for years between business owners and elected officials in order weaken liquor regulations in the county.
Based on the latter fiasco, it’s no surprise that Hogan’s package of reforms includes a proposed “Liquor Board Reform Act” that would ask state senators to nominate “professional regulators” to head their county’s liquor boards and subject nominees to a State Ethics Commission review. The present system allows central party committees in each district to nominate liquor board commissioners, similar to how committees fill vacant General Assembly seats.
His other proposed reforms include:
- The “Public Integrity Act,” which would bar lawmakers from proposing legislation that benefits their own businesses and prohibit staffers from lobbying for a year after leaving government posts, among other changes;
- The “Legislative Transparency Act,” which would require livestreaming of all General Assembly meetings;
- and the “Redistricting Reform Act,” which would aim to end gerrymandering of legislative districts.
For Hogan’s ideas to reach fruition, the General Assembly would need to approve each proposal by April 10.
The governor also reportedly said today that he wants all potential delegate replacements nominated by central party committees to first undergo background checks, presumably so as to prevent close calls like the one with Brown. According to the Sun, the Attorney General’s Office advised that the checks must be voluntary, rather than required.
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