BOSTON — State lawmakers are weighing a proposal by House Speaker Robert DeLeo to create a special panel to review ethical guidelines for public officials in Massachusetts.
A legislative committee held a public hearing Tuesday at the Statehouse on the Winthrop Democrat’s resolution to create an 11-member Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government.
If approved, the task force would review the state’s conflict-of-interest and ethics rules, campaign finance disclosure laws and laws related to lobbyists. It would also look at the feasibility of extending state lobbying laws to cities and towns.
The proposal calls on the task force to meet with officials responsible for overseeing the state ethics, lobbying and campaign finance laws — and with academics, practitioners and other experts.
Common Cause Massachusetts Executive Director Pam Wilmot says her group supports the bill. In particular, she says the state must revamp the statements of financial interest that are filled out by public officials. Wilmot said portions of the statements are outdated.
“Our platform is always to ensure the highest ethical standards for officials that are representing the public,” Wilmot told the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.
House Committee Chairman Peter Kocot said the goal of the measure is to help clarify ethics regulations for public workers and politicians.
“One of the major goals of this resolve is to make sure that people that are public employees or are elected have a clear path to follow in terms of the ethics laws,” the Northampton Democrat said.
DeLeo began floating the idea of the ethics panel earlier this year, shortly after reports surfaced of a federal investigation into whether Democratic state Sen. Brian Joyce had used his official position to boost his private law practice.
Joyce hasn’t been charged and has denied wrongdoing.
The resolution calls for the panel to report its findings by Dec. 23.
In 2014, the state adopted a new campaign finance law, requiring corporations, labor unions and political committees to file a campaign finance report within seven days of making an independent expenditure __ or within 24 hours if the expenditure is made within 10 days of an election.
Such expenditures can include television, radio, internet or newspaper ads made on behalf of a candidate but without consulting with that candidate’s political committee.
The law also requires the top five donors who give more than $5,000 to a PAC to be identified in that PAC’s ad.
The law also doubled the amount an individual could donate to a candidate in a calendar year from $500 to $1,000.