Whitesburg KY

Hatton, two other lawmakers file bills to strengthen ethics laws in Ky.’s executive branch

Rep. Angie Hatton and two other Democratic lawmakers in Kentucky have unveiled proposals that would strengthen executive branch ethics and election laws.

One bill would increase reporting of state resources used for personal or political reasons. Rep. Hatton says news reports about Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s use of a taxpayer-owned aircraft showed her the need for more transparency and accountability.

Rep. Hatton, of Whitesburg, has joined House Democratic Leaders Derrick Graham and Joni Jenkins in filing three bills that would: Increase reporting of state resources used for personal or political reasons; Require all candidates for statewide constitutional office to release three years of tax returns; and Limit the time political contributions can be given to pay off a winning gubernatorial slate’s campaign loans.

Rep. Hatton said recent news accounts about Gov. Matt Bevin’s use of state airplanes is why she is filing her bill to increase reporting requirements in these cases.

“We must never forget that taxpayers paid for this equipment and are entitled to know how it’s being used, especially outside of normal government service,” she said. “It’s clear from the governor’s recent listing of political and personal trips that current reporting rules are just not enough. The information was incomplete, and there is no real enforcement for non-compliance. My legislation will standardize reporting requirements so that they are both clear and comprehensive and are available through the Executive Branch Ethics Commission within 30 days. That’s both reasonable and fair and will still give governors discretion in such sensitive matters as economic development.”

The Lexington Herald- Leader reported recently that Bevin didn’t give a reason for 28 of 112 trips he took using the state plane in 2016 and 2017. The newspaper reported Bevin’s campaign manager Davis Paine calls the Democrats’ actions “a political stunt.” Bevin is seeking a second term in the Nov. 5 election. His Democratic challenger is Andy Beshear.

Rep. Graham, the House Democratic Caucus Chair, and Rep. Jenkins, the Democratic Caucus Whip, also cited Gov. Bevin’s actions as the reason why their legislation is needed.

“For many years, it was a given that candidates of both parties running for governor would release their tax returns, so voters could see for themselves whether they had any potential conflicts of interest,” said Rep. Graham of Frankfort. “This wasn’t an invasion of privacy; it was a safeguard for Kentuckians, to ensure decisions were made in their interest and not for personal gain. My bill would require candidates for all statewide constitutional offices to release their three most recent tax returns, because the offices they’re running for are the ones that ultimately write the checks funded by the state’s budget.”

Rep. Jenkins, of Shively, said her legislation mirrors a bill she filed in 2017, when Gov. Bevin continued accepting donations for his multi-million dollar personal loan to his 2015 campaign.

“Candidates like him boast that they’re self-funding their race, when in reality they’re not,” she said. “At the very least, there needs to be a hard limit on this practice, so that it can’t continue for nearly three years, as it did in Gov. Bevin’s case. What he did may meet the letter of campaign-finance laws, but it doesn’t meet their spirit, and it certainly does not pass the smell test. My bill will keep this from happening again by limiting these post-campaign donations to a year after a candidate takes office.”

All three bills will be prefiled for the 2020 Regular Session, which begins in early January.

— Compiled from Mountain Eagle and Associated Press dispatches.

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