Senate Adopts New Rules of Ethical Conduct

HARRISBURG – The state Senate today adopted a set of Rules of Ethical Conduct designed to make the division between legislative and campaign work clear, to provide annual ethics training, and to establish strong penalties for violations.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9), and Senate Democratic Leader Robert Mellow (D-22) announced the bipartisan rules, which were introduced as Senate Resolution 228, late last year.

“We continue to move forward with a positive agenda of effective reform,” said Senator Scarnati. “These rules provide a clear map for senators and staff to follow in regard to what is permissible and what is not.”

The Senate Rules Committee, chaired by Senator Pileggi, held a public hearing on this proposal in February to receive input from officials at the State Ethics Commission, the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and others. Many of their suggestions were incorporated.

“Pennsylvanians are rightly demanding increased accountability from public officials,” said Senator Pileggi. “It is our responsibility to set a high standard, and working in a bipartisan manner we have developed a strong set of Rules of Ethical Conduct. I am pleased by today’s unanimous vote.”

“Adopting these rules is another sign that the Senate is serious about improving how it operates,” said Senator Mellow said. “We have very carefully drafted these rules to be clear, easily understood and meaningful.”

Under the new Senate Rules of Ethical Conduct, annual training will be provided to all senators and all Senate employees related to the Senate Rules of Ethical Conduct, the Ethics Act, and the Lobbyist Disclosure Act.

The Rules of Ethical Conduct also include the following provisions:

  • No Senate employee may conduct any campaign activity on Senate work time.
  • No campaign activity may be conducted in a Senate office or with Senate resources.
  • The solicitation or receipt of campaign contributions on Senate work time or with Senate resources is prohibited.
  • No Senate employee may serve as an officer on a campaign committee or a campaign finance committee on behalf of any Senator or Senate candidate.
  • No Senate employee may be required to perform campaign activities or to make campaign contributions.
  • No Senate employee may be required to perform any non-work-related task.
  • Senate mailing lists and email lists may only be used for legislative purposes, and cannot be sold or given to any other entity, including campaigns.
  • Clarifies that Senate employees who are responsible for taking or recommending official actions are required to file Financial Interest Statements with the Secretary of the Senate.
  • No Senate-funded newsletter may be sent within 60 days of an election.

The Senate Rules Committee yesterday adopted an amendment which enhanced the Rules of Ethical Conduct in several ways, such as improving the definition of “campaign activity,” strengthening the protection of Senate mailing lists, and clarifying the acceptable use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Any alleged violations of the Senate Rules of Ethical Conduct would first be investigated by the Secretary of the Senate. If a more detailed investigation is warranted and the subject of the report is a senator, the matter will be referred to the Senate Committee on Ethics and Official Conduct. If the subject of the report is an employee, an independent party will conduct the investigation.

Penalties for violations by an employee can range from a warning to termination of employment, depending on the circumstances. Penalties for violations by a senator can range from a warning to requiring restitution and any other sanction provided for under the Pennsylvania Constitution.

CONTACTS:

Drew Crompton (Senator Scarnati), dcrompton@pasen.gov, (717) 787-7084
Erik Arneson (Senator Pileggi), earneson@pasen.gov, (717) 787-4712
Lisa Scullin (Senator Mellow), lscullin@pasenate.com, (717) 787-6481