McDonnell scandal leads to calls for serious ethics reform - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

McDonnell scandal leads to calls for serious ethics reform


Former Governor Bob McDonnell (R) and his wife had asked to have their hearing pushed back from this Friday. A judge denied that request, and now the McDonnells will be in court at 10am in just two days from now.

The McDonnells had asked for the delay because a member of their legal team is on vacation in a location that makes it difficult to get back quickly. That reason was not good enough for the judge, and the hearing will go on as planned.

Meanwhile, the story is really developing on two fronts. One is the court room; the other is here in General Assembly. Will this scandal lead to real substantive ethics reform? Both Republicans and Democrats say it better.

State lawmakers know now is the time for serious ethics reform.

"We've been through Civil War in Virginia, we've been through insurrection, we've never had somebody get indicted for corruption before its new ground," said Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax)

That is ground lawmakers don't want have to go down again. Both sides agree the way to prevent another federal indictment is to implement strict laws that protect elected leaders from themselves.

"We wanted to really come up with a bipartisan proposal frankly that could be thoughtfully done," said Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) the House Majority Leader.

But some are concerned the initial proposal from the House, that would limit gifts from lobbyists to $250 is not enough. And because Jonnie Williams was not a registered lobbyist and there is no limit to the amount of times someone can give a $250 gift, this problem would've still occurred.

"That's not the type of ethics reform that the people of Virginia are looking for," said Sen. Don McEachin (D-Henrico). "I applaud them for putting something together, but the house has to know that is just a template."

And House Speaker William Howell (R) understands this is just the first step in the process. A process his fellow members of the General Assembly have to get right.

"The process that the bill is going to through now, everybody will have the chance to offer up amendments if they think that it's appropriate,' he said.

House Republicans reject the idea that there is nothing in their proposal that would've changed this situation. They point to their reforms of what gifts must be reported, and how a lawmaker would define a "friend". They also call for the creation of an ethics commission that would review the state's laws every year and make new recommendations.

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