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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: December 30, 2016 12:44 PM
From: Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Gift Limitations on Public Officials
I recently circulated a memorandum that dealt with the reporting of gifts that are received by public officials. Last session, as an alternative another bill was proposed by the Government Reform caucus. I plan to also re-introduce that legislation which will provide guidelines for the prohibition of certain gifts to public officials and public employees in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The acceptance of gifts by public employees and officials may often be viewed as unethical by the public. Gifts may be perceived as an instrument of persuasion to influence a public official's vote or to promote a contractual, business or financial deal. The perception of gifts as bribes could create a confidence gap in the public and the government, and put into question whether gifts have a negative effect on an official's ability to fairly, unbiasedly, and equally serve the needs of the people.

This legislation, as part of Title 65 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, would prohibit the acceptance of any gifts related to transportation, lodging, hospitality or anything of economic value. Excluded from the list of prohibited items are those items that have a nominal economic value (i.e. a greeting card, a plaque, or a pen). The bill also prohibits the soliciting or acceptance of meals intended for consumption by a specific individual. However, the legislation would allow for light food or refreshments, such as hors d'oeuvres, meant for mass consumption in a group setting. These and other exemptions to deal with various issues that would arise from a complete ban are enumerated in the bill.

In the previous legislative session, the Government Reform Caucus had approved legislation which would reduce the threshold of the monetary value of reportable gifts. This bill followed the gift ban executive order issued by Governor Wolf, to provide a broader and more comprehensive approach. Co-sponsors last session were: BLAKE, SCHWANK, RAFFERTY, BREWSTER, AUMENT, VULAKOVICH AND FARNESE

Introduced as SB132