HARRISBURG – Free meals, free Penn State football tickets and many other gifts, cash and contributions are freely given to state lawmakers and many state employees, and there are few restrictions. That could soon change.
State house member Garth Everett (R-84th, Muncy) was on WKOK’s On The Mark talking about a compromise bill that would limit the cash, cash value of gifts and hospitality that public officials, public employees or candidates can accept.
He says the governor currently won’t allow any gifts at all for his staff and employees he controls, but Rep. Everett says there is no limit for other workers, “We can accept anything and there are reporting requirements. I could accept a trip to Tahiti, I would have to report that but there are just no limits right now on what we could accept.”
The bill is designed to minimize the influence of big money lobbyists from trying to buy influence, but Everett says it’s makes doing day to day business difficult, “It kinda makes it difficult to do business the way we used to and I don’t think anybody has ever changed a vote or changed a ruling or changed a decision based on getting a meal or a sandwich for lunch someplace.”
According to the bill, gifts generally can’t total more than $50 from one person in a calendar year, or hospitality, transportation or lodging worth $500 a year. The bill provides other exceptions, allowing gifts from family members or “gifts exchanged between public officials or public employees on a voluntary basis.”
The bill creates exceptions for birthday, wedding or other ‘family milestone’ gifts, and creates an exception if a lobbyist and lawmaker are romantically involved.
Everett also talked a little about a voucher program for kids in the Harrisburg School District, “While we try to fix the long term problem of the whole school district itself, we just want to offer a lifeline to those kids that are stuck in that district right now and offer those kids an opportunity to get a good education while we fix the overall problem that the school district has.”
You can listen to the rest of the discussion with PA State Representative Garth Everett on WKOK’s On The Mark podcast page. Everett addresses other topics ranging from some local police departments being able to use radar, to the statute of limitations change for victims of child sexual abuse being able to sue as adults.