Pa. lawmaker again calls for ban on all legislative gifts

    A Lancaster County Republican who lost his bid for the top post in Pennsylvania’s Senate is applying some pressure to his chamber’s new leadership and calling for passage of a gift ban next year.

    Sen. Lloyd Smucker proposed a legislative gift prohibition in September. It came as Democrats were pushing more incremental ethics reforms and advocates jeered at lawmakers to abandon the status quo.

    Right now, state lawmakers may accept gifts, even from people with business before the Legislature, as long as gifts that hit certain thresholds are disclosed annually to the state Ethics Commission.

    “I’m hoping that with our new leadership in place, and with the talk of reform, that we will act on some of the recommendations that I and others have made,” said Smucker.

    It’s not yet clear if a comprehensive gift ban would be a priority for the rest of the Senate GOP, whose majority leader will change in January. The House and Senate both have implemented chamber rules against accepting cash gifts, but such measures aren’t legally binding.

    Calls for changes to the state Ethics Act ramped up after reports were confirmed that several lawmakers had been caught on tape accepting cash from an undercover informant.

    Gov.-elect Tom Wolf has said he’ll impose a gift ban for members of his administration, barring them from accepting freebies such as meals, tickets, hotel accommodations, and transportation.

    “He’s taken a very positive step here,” Smucker said of Wolf. “And I think it’s an excellent time for the Legislature to pass legislation like this.”

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