Spurred by complaints that legislators under investigation for possible ethics violations are "tried in the press," the leadership of the House of Delegates has decided it wants to establish a permanent ethics investigating committee.
House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin, who introduced a resolution to set up investigating committees in both the House and the Senate, said they would work alongside the existing Joint Committee on Ethics and would allow the legislature to resolve ethics matters quicker.
The committees would have the power to investigate matters referred by the joint committee or the presiding officers of each chamber, and unlike the current system, would be able to initiate an investigation throughout the year, rather than just during sessions of the legislature, and without public notice.
That provision is likely to please many legislators, who have long grumbled about unwanted publicity granted to those being investigated.
The new proposal, which must be approved by the House and the Senate, also would allow, for the first time, the ethics committee to recommend against investigating a legislator if the violation is minor, or if the legislator had taken appropriate corrective action. The committee now must request an investigation for any violation, even if unintended or minor.
"The major complaint was that legislators being investigated for possible violations were being tried in the press," Cardin said. "We're trying to tighten up the confidentiality of an investigation."