Patrick's Panel To Revamp State's Ethics Laws

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Gov. Deval Patrick will file legislation Wednesday to revamp the state's ethics laws.

A panel formed by the governor last fall is recommending stiffer penalties for bribery and violating conflict-of-interest rules.

The panel also proposed giving the state attorney general wiretapping power in corruption probes.

Patrick says when a few people "behave outside the rules," it casts a cloud over all of state government.

The panel comes after Sen. Dianne Wilkerson was accused of stuffing liquor license payoffs in her bra and then dragged her feet about resigning.

The panel says the criminal penalty for bribery should be more than tripled to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.

The lion's share of recommended reforms focus on lobbying and ethics at the same time House Speaker Sal Dimasi and three associates are under investigation for big money influence peddling by ticket brokers.

The revised law would boost the punishment for lobbying violations to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Dimasi issued a brief statement Tuesday afternoon suggesting that tackling the fiscal crisis would be a better way to build public trust. 

All state employees will get online ethics training and lobbyists will have to take a certification course every year.

The governor will file the legislation Wednesday and wants lawmakers to pass it in 30 days, although he doesn't seem too confident it will move that fast.

Date: 1/6/2009 12:00:00 AM