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Gifts to legislators must be stopped

07/30/2014 02:52PM ● Published by Lev

Letter to the Editor:

Giving gifts to legislators is big business in our Commonwealth. Pennsylvanians were rightfully outraged when they learned legislators were accepting cash gifts, and it was all done legally.

Under current Pennsylvania law, any gifts of any value can be given to legislators. Legislators only need to disclose gifts valued at over $250, or transportation and lodging valued at over $650. They can take anything that is offered, including cash. This practice is counter to the principles of good government and must be stopped.

Legislators are paid well to do their job. They should do the job they are paid to do without accepting gifts from those who want to influence state policy. Accepting expensive gifts, travel, and envelopes of cash gives well-funded and powerful lobbyists unequal access to the legislature and influences law creation. It dilutes the power of the people's voice.

Groups, schools, and nonprofits will often give a hat, T-shirt or coffee mug to a legislator to thank him or her for a visit. These small tokens of appreciation are given with all good intentions and not meant to sway a vote.

The House once again failed to write a law to end the practice, or take even one small step to bring ethics to state government.

If I am elected, I will work with other reform-minded legislators to bring accountability and transparency to Harrisburg. I would suggest that a small gift threshold, not to exceed $25 in value, be allowed per person or organization per year. Even these small gifts should be disclosed in public documents.


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