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Cardin says Assembly likely to OK ethics plan Study panel recommends a variety of changes in legislative proposal


Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin says he is optimistic the General Assembly will approve without major changes a study panel's recommendations for changing Maryland's ethics laws.

Cardin, a Baltimore-area Democrat and former speaker of the House of Delegates, was chairman of the study committee, which met for the last time yesterday to review the language of its legislative proposal.

The General Assembly is expected to take up the proposal as one of its first orders of business after it convenes Jan. 13. The state's two top legislative leaders have promised to work to get the proposals passed.

"They appear ready to take this up early," Cardin said after the meeting. "I think about all of the key concerns that have been raised have been addressed. I think by and large it will be passed as is."

Among other things, the proposals would disqualify legislators from voting on issues in which they, their employers or business interests have a direct economic interest. They also would be required to report income sources of $500 or more.

The proposals would ban the practice of lobbyists paying for legislators' meals and would prohibit lawmakers from accepting all but token gifts, such as T-shirts or baseball caps.

The study panel also recommended hiring a full-time legal counsel to advise lawmakers about ethics and to hold mandatory annual ethics training sessions. Cardin said legislative leaders could announce an appointment to the post this week.

The position is expected to be filled by William G. Somerville, who served as staff counsel to the ethics study panel and to the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, State House sources said.

Somerville, who holds a law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law, has been with the state Department of Legislative Services since 1979. He supervises the drafting of bills, amendments and code revisions.

The 15-member study commission was created in the wake of ethics controversies this year involving former state Sen. Larry Young and former Del. Gerald J. Curran. The two Baltimore Democrats left the General Assembly after their activities were detailed in articles in The Sun.

The Senate expelled Young after finding he was using his public office for private gain. Curran resigned his House seat after the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics decided to investigate whether he had used his office to benefit his insurance business.

Pub Date: 12/09/98

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