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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published January 24 2013

North Dakota to move forward on ethics reform

BISMARCK – Democratic lawmakers said Thursday they plan to move forward with eight key pieces of legislation that would regulate campaign finances and create special interests transparency, a committee to address redistricting and a commission to preside over ethical charges.

The eight bills are known as the “Sunshine Act,” which has support from both Republicans and Democrats.

“The need for greater disclosure, transparency and oversight is anything but unsubstantiated,” he said.

A study by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organization, showed North Dakota failed in eight of 14 categories: lobbyist disclosure, ethics enforcement, state insurance commissions, political financing, state civil service management, pension fund management and legislative accountability.

Mock has proposed House Bill 1442, which would create the state’s first ethics commission to investigate a complaint alleging that any member of the legislative assembly, elected or appointed executive branch officer, judge, legislative candidate, lobbyist, or state employee has violated any criminal provision involving corruption or misconduct in office.

The commission would have nine members serving two-year terms and consist of the speaker of the House, minority and majority party leaders from both chambers and five members appointed by the governor.

with one member from each major political party.

The commission would meet within 30 days after a written complaint is submitted alleging an offense. Commission members could refer a complaint to the attorney general or a state’s attorney for further investigation.

Mock is also sponsoring House Bill 1447, which requires campaign contribution reports to be filed electronically and made public within 24 hours of submission. It would also move the reporting period to begin 40 days before each election.

Other bills include:

E House Bill 1430: Sponsored by Rep. Ed Gruchalla, D-Fargo, the bill would require third-party interest groups or corporations to disclose any political contributions and advertisements.

E House Bill 1436: Sponsored by Rep. Ron Guggisberg, D-Fargo, the bill would require a legislative candidate to file the same contribution reports as North Dakota statewide candidates, which includes donors who contributed more than $200 during a year and a gross total of all contributions received by contributors who gave less than $200.

E House Bill 1449: Sponsored by Rep. Joshua Boschee, D-Fargo, the bill would require legislative and statewide candidates to disclose expenditures made by their campaign accounts if greater than $200.

E House Bill 1444: Sponsored by Rep. Gail Mooney, D-Cummings, the bill would require special interest groups to disclose any payment made to state elected officials for travel purposes. The bill would also expand the definition of lobbyist to include anyone who drafts, promotes or distributes legislation to be be introduced during the legislative session.

E Senate Bill 2276: Proposed by Sen. George Sinner, D-Fargo, the bill would require all legislators to disclose travel payments or reimbursements from special interest group if the payments are greater than $500.