Under the Dome

Reform group attacks ethics change

The ethics and lobbying reforms passed two years ago allow lobbyists to provide food and drink for lawmakers at "public events."

But the events aren't actually open to the public unless the lobbyist wants it so. Nor does the public find out about them until after they've taken place, when lobbying reports are filed, Dan Kane reports.

Legislation that passed the House this week takes a baby step forward on the issue, but the fix isn't pleasing open government advocates. The bill requires a sign be posted in front of the building if the event is open to the public.

Jane Pinsky, executive director of the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Governmental Ethics Reform, said lawmakers could follow the practices of Tennessee and Maryland, which report legislative gatherings sponsored by lobbyists at least five days before the event.

"If Tennessee can put it out, if Maryland can publish it, there's no reason North Carolina can't," she said.

The purpose of advance notice, she said, is so the public knows who is trying to persuade lawmakers at the time legislation is in play.

Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat who sponsored the legislation, said he wasn't sure Tennessee and Maryland's practices would work in North Carolina. He said he also had security concerns with advance notification of lobbyist sponsored events.

The bill, which includes other fixes to the reform laws, now moves to the Senate for consideration.

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