ANNAPOLIS – Legislators should disclose their financial interests twice a year, and at the same time as lobbyists, a state delegate told a House committee during a Wednesday hearing.
“I think the public will probably endorse such a change,” said Del. James W. Hubbard, D-Prince George’s. “I know it puts a little extra burden on us. I’d rather have that, than someone saying he’s not reporting what’s on the lobbyist’s report.”
Hubbard introduced the financial disclosure bill during a session that will be filled with campaign finance reform and ethics legislation. House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D- Allegany, also has sponsored several such bills.
“I support the issue of the public understanding the transfer of dollars, particularly from lobbyists,” Hubbard told the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee.
Currently, legislators file statements only once year, and there is a considerable lag between the reporting deadline and the session’s end. For example, delegates won’t report their statements for the 1997 session until April 1998, Hubbard said.
However, registered lobbyists must file reports twice a year — for a November to May cycle and for a May to November cycle. And their reports are for the six-month period immediately prior to the deadline.
Hubbard’s bill would require legislators to file statements at the same time and for the same period, so that the activities would correlate.
He hopes his bill will help alleviate some confusion for constituents who follow financial disclosure statements.
Hubbard’s bill met no opposition during the hearing and none of the delegates asked questions.
In another matter, the committee heard testimony on a Howard County bill requiring applicants in zoning proceedings there to state whether they are engaging in business with elected officials.
That bill also met no opposition during the committee hearing.
The measure follows a controversy last year in which a county councilman voted favorably on a zoning amendment affecting a company that had recently purchased an option to buy his family’s farm. The amendment concerned a land deal not involving the councilman’s property, but the councilman never told other council members about his business deal. “What it’s about for everybody is letting people know who we’re taking money from,” Del. Shane Pendergrass, D-Howard. “The citizens really have right to know who is giving us money, whether it’s money for campaigns, whether it’s money for a non- partisan office or for a business deal.” -30-