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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 18, 2018 12:52 PM
From: Senator Lisa Baker
To: All Senate members
Subject: Gift Ban
Merely requiring the disclosure of gifts received above a certain value is no longer regarded by the public as an effective guard against corruption. A complete gift ban will help rebuild public confidence that our laws and policies are shaped through thoughtful deliberation rather than by undue influence on the part of special interests.

This legislation will:

• Incorporate a cash gift ban;
• Prohibit the solicitation of gifts by public officials and public employees;
• Ban all gifts with limited, reasonable exceptions; and
• Apply to all public officials and public employees.

Gifts to public officials and public employees will be prohibited from:

• Lobbyists;
• Principals;
• Anyone with an existing government contract;
• Anyone seeking a government contract; and
• Anyone seeking to influence official action.

The legislation will also prohibit gifts to relatives of public officials and public employees if the gift is given because of the official’s or employee’s position.

“Gift” will be defined to include anything of value, including items, meals, travel, lodging and entertainment. Exemptions will include:

• Gifts valued at $50 or less, provided it is not from a lobbyist or principal, with an annual limit of $250 on such gifts;
• Gifts from a parent, sibling, spouse, child, stepchild, stepparent, stepsibling, grandparent, grandchild, parent-in-law, sibling-in-law or other close relative when the circumstances make it clear that the motivation for the action was a personal or family relationship;
• Gifts of nominal value, such as greeting cards, pens, baseball caps and T-shirts;
• Informational materials;
• Awards or prizes given to competitors in any contest or event open to the public, including random drawings;
• Gifts available to the public or offered to members of a group or class in which membership is not related to being a public official or public employee;
• Honorary degrees and nonmonetary public service awards;
• Plaques, trophies or other commemorative items intended for presentation and valued at $100 or less;
• Voluntary gift exchanges between public officials and their staffs;
• Items paid for by federal, state or local government;
• Gifts given on the basis of a legitimate personal friendship;
• Entertainment provided as part of an event at a private residence; and
• Campaign contributions otherwise reported as required by law.

The legislation will also include the following common-sense exceptions for meals, which will apply as long as the meal is provided by the organizer, not someone purchasing a block of tickets:

• Meals at regularly scheduled events sponsored by a constituent or statewide organization;
• Meals provided when the public official or public employee is speaking to a group or participating in a discussion panel;
• Meals at widely attended events when the public official or public employee is invited in connection with performance of official duties and provided by the sponsor of the event;
• Meals at charity fund-raising events; and
• Meals at campaign events.

Last Session, SB 517 was co-sponsored by Senators Aument, Blake, Brewster, Costa, Fontana, Mensch, Schwank, Ward, Yudichak,

Thank you for your consideration.

Introduced as SB313