Because of an editing error, an incorrect date was given in yesterday's editions for the scheduled adjournment of the Virginia General Assembly. The date is Saturday, March 8.
Virginia state Sen. Clive L. DuVal II (D-Fairfax) said today it would be disastrous if a controversial ethics bill passes in its current form, saying it would "stamp a very bad copyright" on the 1986 legislative session.
DuVal's comment came in an interview in which he said the legislature is showing signs of increasing concern over the public perception of the Senate-passed version of an ethics bill that would decriminalize many conflict-of-interest violations when committed by legislators and local officials.
"There's a strong feeling growing that what we did wasn't proper," said DuVal, who noted the legislature was running out of time. Adjournment is scheduled for March 12.
In what some legislators suggested was evidence of the assembly's changing mood, the Senate voted by a wide margin today to delete a provision in a separate bill that would have exempted the work of legislative ethics panels from the state's Freedom of Information Act.
"That's a legitimate object of public information," said Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (D-Fairfax), who spotted the provision in a bill that initially was intended to add only medical fraud investigations to the FOI exemptions.
The Senate is scheduled to take up Monday the ethics measure that has embroiled the session in a debate over the proper standards for legislators. The House touched off the debate when it voted to lower fines and eliminate prison terms for legislators convicted of violating the act, which took affect for legislators in 1983.
The Senate went further, exempting legislators and local government officials from most conflict prosecution, arguing that ethics panels of the assembly and local governments could discipline the lawmakers.
The House, despite solid support from its Democratic leadership, refused Thursday to go along with the Senate version.
DuVal said today the Senate's increasing wariness, plus indications from Gov. Gerald L. Baliles that he may veto the bill, may generate enough opposition to kill the bill in the House-Senate conference committee.
The legislature is expected to approve a year-long study of the conflict-of-interest bill and DuVal said nearly all the changes recommended by the House and Senate easily could be delayed until next year.
However, several legislators said they likely would have a tougher time changing the bill in 1987 because it is an election year for both the House and Senate.