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Friday, June 13, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - "Ethics overhaul can't come soon enough"

That is the headline of this editorial which appears May 30 in the South Bend Tribune and was republished yesterday in the Martinsville Reporter-Times:

State aid could directly benefit the Indiana legislator who, the House Ethics Committee determined last month, didn't technically violate any ethics rules.

The lawmaker in question, House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner, had been investigated after lobbying behind closed doors against a nursing home bill that would have stalled development of projects he is invested in through Mainstreet Property Group. According to The Associated Press, Turner had more than $4 million in profits on the line.

Although the bipartisan panel cleared Turner of wrongdoing, it also urged legislators to strengthen the rules, which "do not require enough disclosure."

Change can't come soon enough. Last week brought news that the Indiana Economic Development Corp. is giving Mainstreet -- the company Turner is invested in -- $345,000 for the construction of a nursing home in Terre Haute. The state aid had been placed on hold by Gov. Mike Pence after Turner's connection to Mainstreet was reported. But after a review, the IEDC determined that there was no conflict of interest and cleared the money.

The head of the IEDC panel said he had concerns about Turner's involvement but didn't think that should get in the way of a good project being completed.

On the contrary, the General Assembly needs some strong ethics rules to get in the way more often. Not because the optics of a state lawmaker benefiting from state tax dollars in this way are bad. But because the status quo is unacceptable and further damages the public's already shaky confidence in government.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 13, 2014 08:02 AM
Posted to Indiana Government