Sen. Stein calls for publishing lawmakers' spending online, reducing lobbyists' influence

01/05/2011 06:27 PM

FRANKFORT — State Sen. Kathy Stein, a Lexington Democrat, wants lawmakers’ expenses regularly posted online for all to see.

Stein filed a bill Wednesday that would make public the receipts legislators turn in with their expense reports and per diem salary requests by requiring the Legislative Research Commission to publish them on its website. Those documents are public records but currently only available through the filing of a Freedom of Information Act request.

When the legislature is in session or when lawmakers attend committee meetings during the interim, they receive a per diem salary of $188.22 per day. Each lawmakers also is entitled to a $127.60 expense allowance per day during the sessions. And legislators can receive reimbursement for travel to and from their districts, as well as for trips on legislative business that are approved by the leaders of the General Assembly.

Stein also proposed legislation Wednesday that would further curb potential influence of special interests that lobby the legislature by tightening provisions in the ethics laws.

But Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, later suggested those changes were unnesccary because Kentucky already had “one of the strongest ethics laws in America.” (see video below)

Stein’s legislative ethics bill would:

  • Bar employers of lobbyists or political action committees of industries that use lobbyists to give money to a lawmaker’s campaign while the General Assembly was in session.
  • Ban lobbyists from raising money for a lawmaker or a legislative candidate during a session. (Currently, lobbyists cannot directly contribute to a lawmaker, but can help raise funds as long as the money doesn’t come directly from the lobbyist.)
  • Enact what Stein called a “no cup of coffee” law by ending lobbyists’ ability to pay up to $100 for food or drink for each individual lawmaker and apply that to legislative candidates as well.

But Stein’s bill still would allow lobbyists to sponsor caucus events.

Stein announced the bills to reporters Wednesday:

Stein told reporters that her bills were a “good-faith effort” that were “tweaks” to the current system, not wholesale changes to the current ethics code:

Republican Senate President David Williams said he hadn’t seen Stein’s bills, but said Kentucky already had “one of the strongest ethics laws in America.”

-Reporting by Kenny Colston, video by Don Weber and Kenny Colston


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