Gift ban legislation long overdue for state lawmakers

Most states limit the amount of gifts lawmakers can take from lobbyists and others.

Pennsylvania does not have such a limit.

But it should.

Pennsylvania’s lawmakers’ newly filed ethics forms show they accepted more than $83,000 in free trips in 2018 and collected a variety of gifts, booze and free travel.

And that’s just what was reported. The lawmakers are not required to report everything they accept.

The trips and gifts come from lobbyists and a variety of professional entities that push ideological and legislative agendas.

Apologists for the existing policy claim that trips to seminars, conferences and other events where the subject matter relates to causes and legislation push the needle for actually getting things done in Harrisburg.

We fail to see how tickets to a Penn State football game or a trip to Key West, Fla., or a conference center room full of booze are necessary to promote consensus on any number of issues that lawmakers from both parties are pushing.

The better way to build consensus and assure relevancy and practicality regarding state-related causes is by talking to the real Pennsylvanians who have to live by such legislation. If anything, the town hall format popular as the backdrop for input on issues should be expanded.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf imposed a gift ban on the executive branch under his authority after taking office in 2015. It’s the correct approach and we hope members of his administration have taken it seriously.

Bills pending in the state House and Senate would ban many types of gifts and travel, with some exceptions. They get introduced often in legislative sessions — and are then ignored.

And lawmakers wonder why much of the electorate does not trust them? They wonder why voter turnout is shamefully low in many elections?

It’s time to institute legitimate gift ban legislation for Pennsylvania lawmakers.

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