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HB 1854 Conflicts of Interests Acts, State & Local Government & General Assembly, lobbyist; filing.
SUMMARY AS PASSED: (all summaries)
Lobbyist reporting, the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act, and the General Assembly Conflicts of Interests Act; filing of required disclosures; registration of lobbyists; candidate filings; judges; definition of gift; informal advice; civil penalties; technical amendments. Makes numerous changes to the laws governing lobbyist reporting, the conflict of interest acts, and the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council (the Council), including (i) allowing the Secretary of the Commonwealth to suspend any penalty that could be assessed against a lobbyist's principal for failing to file the required disclosure if such failure is beyond the control of the principal; (ii) clarifying the procedures for terminating the services of a lobbyist; (iii) requiring that lobbyist registration forms be filed electronically; (iv) eliminating the requirement that a lobbyist list the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all other lobbyists representing the same principal; (v) creating a separate statement for a lobbyist's principal to waive the principal signature requirement on the lobbyist disclosure form; (vi) granting the clerk of the local governing body or school board the same power as the Council to redact from any disclosure form released to the public any residential address, personal telephone number, or signature; (vii) eliminating the minimum duration of the mandatory refresher ethics orientation session for General Assembly members; (viii) allowing written informal advice from the Council to confer immunity from prosecution upon individuals acting in accordance with such advice; (ix) clarifying the Council's authority to grant extensions from the filing deadline and imposing a $250 civil penalty on agency heads or local clerks who fail to provide the disclosure forms to filers in a timely manner; (x) requiring lobbyists to provide a report of gifts made during a regular session of the General Assembly no later than three weeks after adjournment to legislators and certain executive branch officials who are required to file a session gift report; and (xi) directing that candidates for statewide office and the General Assembly are required to file a disclosure form with the State Board of Elections and candidates for a constitutional office are required to file a disclosure form with the local general registrar. The bill also extends the filing deadline for disclosure forms from January 15 to February 1 and clarifies the reporting period covered by the disclosure forms. The bill eliminates events open to individuals who share a common interest from the definition of a "widely attended event," attendance at which is not subject to the gift cap. The bill also exempts from the definition of a "gift" (a) gifts from a person's child-in-law; (b) gifts related to a person's volunteer service; (c) meals provided for attendance at an official meeting of the Commonwealth, its political subdivisions, or certain other entities; and (d) attendance at a reception or similar function. The bill also exempts members of the judiciary from certain provisions governing prohibited gifts and prohibited personal interests in a transaction where such members are already subject to similar or greater prohibitions under the Canons of Judicial Conduct for the State of Virginia. The bill also clarifies that a legislator may have a personal interest in a contract with a government agency, not including a legislative branch agency, when the Virginia Public Procurement Act allows the award of such contract without competition. The bill further clarifies the exceptions that allow state and local officers and employees who have a personal interest in a transaction to participate in the transaction. Finally, the bill contains technical amendments. The bill contains an emergency clause that applies to the changes described in clauses (x) and (xi). This bill is identical to SB 1312.