SENATE VOTES TO CREATE ETHICS CODE FOR GAMING BOARD
HARRISBURG, November 2, 2005 – Under the leadership of state Senator Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia), the Senate today passed a bill that will establish a strong ethics code for the state Gaming Control Board, and will require members of the board to recuse themselves from any vote in which they have a conflict of interest.
Fumo, one of the chief authors of the legislation that legalized slot machine gambling in Pennsylvania, said the bill improves the original law in some respects and clarifies others areas of the law that had become subject to varying interpretations.
"We created a completely new industry and a completely new agency from scratch in Pennsylvania. Our original law was already the strongest of any state that has legal gambling, but as the board has gone about its work, we have learned of additional measures we must take to ensure public confidence in the integrity of our process," Fumo said.
The bipartisan amendment, which Fumo helped to craft, was inserted into SB 862 in the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, before the legislation was sent to the Senate floor for today’s vote. The legislation now goes to the House.
The ethics code contained in the bill would apply to Gaming Control Board members, employees, and contractors. It mirrors suggestions that Fumo and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer (R-Blair) submitted in public comments to the board last week. The code includes the following provisions:
Requires establishment of an "interested party" registration list that would include the name, address and client of any attorney, lobbyist, agent or representative of any person who appears before the board on behalf of an applicant or licensed entity.
Prohibits all ex parte communications.
Prohibits the acceptance of any gifts from any applicant, licensed entity or representative thereof.
Prohibits all political activity including fund-raising from any board member or employee. (Non-voting ex-officio members are exempted).
Prohibits the solicitation of money for any charitable purpose from any applicant, licensed entity or representative thereof.
Mandates that all meetings with any interested party shall occur on the board’s premises.
The bill also mandates the recusal of board members who have a conflict of interest from voting in any particular proceeding. It permits the substitution of an alternate board member under such circumstances who does not have a similar conflict. The alternate member would be designated by the same authority who appointed the recusant.
The amended version of SB 862 also does the following:
Changes the one percent limitation on public official ownership in a casino license to an absolute prohibition of any ownership interest.
Clarifies the board’s proper use of the state Procurement Code.
Clarifies that the board shall seek annual budget authorization as is the case with most state agencies.
Establishes a Gaming Enforcement Unit within the State Attorney General’s Office.
Clarifies that the Right to Know Law, the State Adverse Interest Act, the Open Meetings Law, the Commonwealth Attorney’s Act and the Commonwealth Documents Law all apply to the board.
Makes additional technical and clarification changes.
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