Under pressure to tighten up the rules after two General Assembly members' questionable business dealings cost them their seats during the 1998 session, the Maryland House and Senate have approved separate ethics bills. Now comes the tricky part - reconciling the two into one bill.
To do that, lawmakers must resolve three issues, including:
- whether General Assembly members can ask lobbyists and corporations to contribute to charitable causes,
- whether lawmakers can accept free tickets to collegiate athletic events, and
- under what circumstances lawmakers can be hired to work for state and local governments.
The first two issues seem simple. Asking lobbyists for charitable contributions may not put any cash in a legislator's pocket, but the unspoken message is: Help me out with my favorite charity, and I won't forget it. As for sports tickets, lawmakers ought to buy their own, so that they can remain objective when state colleges come before the legislature seeking funds.