H.R. 4948 (109th): Ethics Reform Act of 2006

109th Congress, 2005–2006. Text as of Mar 14, 2006 (Introduced).

Status & Summary | PDF | Source: GPO

HR 4948 IH

109th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. R. 4948

To abolish the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in the House of Representatives, establish an Independent Ethics Commission, and provide for the transfer of the duties and functions of the committee to the Commission.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

March 14, 2006

Mr. BLUMENAUER (for himself and Mr. WALDEN of Oregon) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on House Administration, and in addition to the Committees on Rules and the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


A BILL

To abolish the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in the House of Representatives, establish an Independent Ethics Commission, and provide for the transfer of the duties and functions of the committee to the Commission.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the `Ethics Reform Act of 2006'.

TITLE I--TERMINATION OF COMMITTEE ON STANDARDS OF OFFICIAL CONDUCT IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

SEC. 101. TERMINATION OF THE COMMITTEE ON STANDARDS OF OFFICIAL CONDUCT.

    (a) TERMINATION-

      (1) RULES- (A) Clause 1 of rule X of the Rules of the House of Representatives is amended by striking paragraph (q) and by redesignating paragraphs (r), (s), and (t) as paragraphs (q), (r), and (s), respectively.

      (B) Rule XI of the Rules of the House of Representatives is amended by striking clause 3 and redesignating clauses 4 through 6 as clauses 3 through 5, respectively.

      (2) LAW- The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 (Public Law 101-194) is amended by striking subsections (b), (c), (d), and (i) of section 803 (2 U.S.C. 29d).

    (b) CONFORMING AMENDMENTS-

      (1) RULES-

        (A) Clause 6(c)(5) of rule II of the Rules of the House of Representatives is amended--

          (i) by striking `Committee on Standards of Official Conduct' and inserting `Independent Ethics Commission'; and

          (ii) by striking `clause 3(a)(3) of rule XI' and inserting `section 202(3) the Ethics Reform Act of 2006'.

        (B) Clause 1(m)(1) of rule X of such Rules is amended by striking `(other than those relating to the Code of Official Conduct)'.

        (C) Clause 2(a)(16) of the Rules of the House of Representatives is amended by striking `Committee on Standards of Official Conduct' and inserting `Independent Ethics Commission'.

        (D) Clause 5 of rule X of such Rules is amended--

          (i) in subparagraph (a), by striking subparagraph (3) and by redesignating subparagraph (4) as subparagraph (3); and

          (ii) in subparagraph (b), by striking item (ii) and by redesignating item (iii) as item (ii).

        (E) Clause 2(g)(1) of rule XI of such Rules is amended by striking `(other than the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct or its subcommittees)' each place it appears.

        (F) Clause 2(m)(3)(A) of rule XI of such Rules is amended by--

          (i) striking `(i) Except as provided in subdivision (A)(ii), a' and inserting `A'; and

          (ii) striking item (ii).

        (G) Clause 3 of rule XIII of such Rules is amended--

          (i) by striking the last sentence of subparagraph (b); and

          (ii) in subparagraph (d)(3)(B), by striking `, or the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct' and by inserting `or' before 'the Committee on Rules'.

        (H) Clause 5(a) of rule XIII of such Rules is amended by striking subparagraph (5).

        (I) Clause 12 of rule XXIII of such Rules is amended by striking `Committee on Standards of Official Conduct' and inserting `Independent Ethics Commission'.

        (J) Clause 2(e) of rule XXV of such Rules is amended by striking `Committee on Standards of Official Conduct' and inserting `Independent Ethics Commission'.

        (K) Clause 3(b) of rule XXV of such Rules is amended by striking `Committee on Standards of Official Conduct' and inserting `Independent Ethics Commission'.

        (L) Clause 5 of rule XXV of such Rules is amended by striking `Committee on Standards of Official Conduct' each place it appears and inserting `Independent Ethics Commission'.

        (M) Clause 1 of rule XVI of such Rules is amended by striking `Committee on Standards of Official Conduct' and inserting `Independent Ethics Commission'.

      (2) LAW- The following provisions are each amended by striking `Committee on Standards of Official Conduct' and inserting `Independent Ethics Commission':

        (A) Section 5(e) of Public Law 93-191 (2 U.S.C. 501(e)).

        (B) Section 7342(a)(6)(A) of title 5, United States Code.

        (C) Section 7353(d)(1) of title 5, United States Code.

        (D) Section 103(j)(1) of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.).

        (E) Section 109(1) of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.).

        (F) Section 109(18)(B) of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.).

        (G) Section 111(2) of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.).

        (H) Section 503(1)(A) of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.).

        (I) Sections 416(e) and 503 of the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 (2 U.S.C. 1416(e) and 1433).

        (J) Section 803 of the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 (2 U.S.C 29d).

SEC. 102. REFERENCE TO COMMITTEE ON STANDARDS OF OFFICIAL CONDUCT.

    Any reference in a law, regulation, document, paper, or other record of the United States to the `Committee on Standards of Official Conduct of the House of Representatives' shall be deemed to be a reference to the `Independent Ethics Commission'.

TITLE II--ESTABLISHMENT OF COMMISSION

SEC. 201. ESTABLISHMENT AND MEMBERSHIP OF COMMISSION.

    (a) ESTABLISHMENT- There is established an independent commission within the legislative branch of the Government to be known as the Independent Ethics Commission (in this title referred to as the `Commission').

    (b) MEMBERSHIP- (1) The Commission shall consist of 11 individuals, 5 appointed by the Speaker, 5 by the minority leader of the House of Representatives, and one selected by the members of the Commission. Appointments of the members of the Commission by the Speaker and the minority leader shall be completed not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

    (2) The Speaker and the minority leader shall each make such appointments after consulting with a broad cross section of the membership of the House of Representatives.

    (c) CHAIRMAN- The chairman shall be appointed from members of the Commission jointly by the Speaker and the minority leader of the House of Representatives.

    (d) QUALIFICATIONS-

      (1) SPECIFIC QUALIFICATIONS- Selection and appointment of members shall be without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of fitness to perform the duties of the office. To be eligible for appointment to the Commission, an individual shall be a former Member of the House of Representatives.

      (2) DISQUALIFICATIONS FOR APPOINTMENTS-

        (A) LOBBYING- No individual who is a lobbyist registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 or engages in, or is otherwise employed in, lobbying of the Congress or who is an agent of a foreign principal registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act shall be eligible for appointment to, or service on, the Commission.

        (B) INCOMPATIBLE OFFICE- No member of the Commission appointed under subsection (b) may hold or have held within 2 years of the date of appointment the position of Member of the House of Representatives.

      (3) VACANCIES- A vacancy on the Commission shall be filled in the manner in which the original appointment was made.

    (e) TERM OF OFFICE-

      (1) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in paragraph (2), membership on the Commission shall be for 2 Congresses. A member of the Commission who is appointed to a term of office shall only be eligible for appointment for a single term of office.

      (2) FIRST APPOINTMENTS- Of the members first appointed to the Commission--

        (A) 3 appointed by the Speaker and 3 appointed by the minority leader shall have a term of office of 3 Congresses, 1 of whom shall be the Chair, as designated at the time of appointment by the Speaker, and

        (B) 4 shall have a term of office of 1 Congress.

    (f) REMOVAL-

      (1) AUTHORITY- Any member of the Commission may be removed from office by agreement of the appointing authorities described in subsection (b), but only for--

        (A) disability that substantially prevents the member from carrying out the duties of the member,

        (B) incompetence,

        (C) neglect of duty,

        (D) malfeasance, including a felony or conduct involving moral turpitude, or

        (E) holding an office or employment or engaging in an activity that disqualifies the individual from service as a member of the Commission under subsection (d)(2).

      (2) STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR REMOVAL- In removing a member of the Commission, the Speaker and the minority leader of the House of Representatives shall state in writing to the member of the Commission being removed the specific reasons for the removal.

      (3) VACANCIES- A vacancy on the Commission shall be filled in the manner in which the original appointment was made.

    (g) COMPENSATION- Each member of the Commission shall be compensated at a rate equal to the daily equivalent of the annual rate of basic pay prescribed for level IV of the Executive Schedule under section 5315 of title 5, United States Code, for each day (including travel time) during which such member is engaged in the performance of the duties of the Commission.

    (h) QUORUM- A majority of the members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum.

    (i) MEETINGS-

      (1) IN GENERAL- The Commission shall meet at the call of the chairperson or a majority of its members.

      (2) INITIAL MEETING- The Commission shall hold its initial meeting not later than 60 days after the date on which appointments are completed.

    (j) DEFINITION--As used in this title, the term `Member' or `Member of the House of Representatives' means any Representative in, or Delegate or Resident Commissioner to, the Congress.

SEC. 202. DUTIES OF COMMISSION.

    The Commission is authorized--

      (1) to recommend to the House of Representatives, from time to time, such administrative actions as it may deem appropriate to establish or enforce standards of official conduct for Members, officers, and employees of the House of Representatives;

      (2)(A) to investigate any alleged violation, by a Member, officer, or employee of the House of Representatives, of any law, rule, regulation, or other standard of conduct applicable to the conduct of such Member, officer, or employee in the performance of his duties or the discharge of his responsibilities, and after notice and hearing (unless the right to a hearing is waived by the Member, officer, or employee), shall report to the House of Representatives its findings of fact and recommendations, if any, upon the final disposition of any such investigation, and such action as the Commission may deem appropriate in the circumstances;

      (B) to issue any letter of reproval or admonishment with respect to such an alleged violation;

      (3) to report to the appropriate Federal or State authorities, with the approval of the House of Representatives, any substantial evidence of a violation, by a Member, officer, or employee of the House of Representatives, of any law applicable to the performance of his duties or the discharge of his responsibilities, which may have been disclosed in a Commission investigation;

      (4) to give consideration to the request of any Member, officer, or employee of the House of Representatives for an advisory opinion with respect to the general propriety of any current or proposed conduct of such Member, officer, or employee and, with appropriate deletions to assure the privacy of the individual concerned, to publish such opinion for the guidance of other Members, officers, and employees of the House of Representatives;

      (5) to provide information and guidance to Members, officers, and employees of the House of Representatives regarding any laws, rules, regulations, and other standards of conduct applicable to such individuals in their official capacities, and develop and carry out periodic educational briefings for Members, officers, and employees of the House of Representatives on those laws, rules, regulations, or other standards; and

      (6) to review all reports filed by Members, officers, and employees of the House of Representatives and lobbyists for inconsistencies or mutual interests and expenditures between any of them and lobbyists.

SEC. 203. PROCEDURAL RULES.

    (a) MAJORITY APPROVAL- No resolution, report, recommendation, or advisory opinion relating to the official conduct of a Member, officer, or employee of the House shall be made by the Commission, and no investigation of such conduct shall be undertaken by the Commission, unless approved by the affirmative vote of a majority of the members of the Commission.

    (b) INVESTIGATIONS- Except in the case of an investigation undertaken by the Commission on its own initiative, the Commission may undertake an investigation relating to the official conduct of an individual Member, officer, or employee of the House of Representatives only--

      (1) upon receipt of a complaint, in writing and under oath, made by or submitted to a Member of the House of Representatives and transmitted to the Commission by such Member, or

      (2) upon receipt of a complaint, in writing and under oath, directly from an individual not a Member of the House of Representatives if the Commission finds that such complaint has been submitted by such individual to not less than three Members of the House who have refused, in writing, to transmit such complaint to the Commission.

    (c) PROHIBITION OF CERTAIN INVESTIGATIONS- No investigation shall be undertaken by the Commission of any alleged violation of a law, rule, regulation, or standard of conduct not in effect at the time of the alleged violation; nor shall any investigation be undertaken by the Commission of any alleged violation which occurred before the third previous Congress unless the Commission determines that the alleged violation is directly related to any alleged violation which occurred in a more recent Congress.

    (d) DISCLOSURE- No information or testimony received, or the contents of a complaint or the fact of its filing, shall be publicly disclosed by any member of the Commission or staff of the Commission unless specifically authorized in each instance by a vote of the full Commission.

SEC. 204. STAFF OF COMMISSION.

    The Commission may appoint and fix the compensation of such staff as the Commission considers necessary to perform its duties. The director shall be appointed jointly by the Speaker and minority leader for a term of 7 years and shall be paid at a rate not exceed the rate of basic pay payable for Level IV of the Executive Schedule. The director shall be eligible for reappointment for one additional term of 7 years.

SEC. 205. ADVICE AND EDUCATION.

    (a) ESTABLISHMENT- The Independent Commission on House Ethics shall establish within the Commission an Office on Advice and Education (hereinafter in this section referred to as the `Office') under the supervision of the chairman of the Commission.

    (b) STAFF- The head of the Office shall be appointed by the chairman and the Office shall be comprised of such staff as the chairman determines is necessary to carry out the responsibilities of the Office.

    (c) DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES- The primary duties and responsibilities of the Office shall include:

      (1) Providing information and guidance to Members, officers and employees of the House regarding any laws, rules, regulations, and other standards of conduct applicable to such individuals in their official capacities, and any interpretations and advisory opinions of the Commission.

      (2) Submitting to the chairman of the Commission any written request from any such Member, officer or employee for an interpretation of applicable laws, rules, regulations, or other standards of conduct, together with any recommendations thereon.

      (3) Recommending to the Commission for its consideration formal advisory opinions of general applicability.

      (4) Developing and carrying out, subject to the approval of the chairman, periodic educational briefings for Members, officers and employees of the House on those laws, rules, regulations, or other standards of conduct applicable to them.

    (d) SPECIAL RULE- No information provided to the Commission by a Member, officer or employee of the House of Representatives when seeking advice regarding prospective conduct of such Member, officer or employee may be used as the basis for initiating an investigation if such Member, officer or employee acts in accordance with the written advice of the Commission.

SEC. 206. LOBBYING DISCLOSURE ACT AMENDMENTS.

    (a) TRANSFER OF FUNCTIONS TO INDEPENDENT ETHICS COMMISSION- The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (2 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) is amended--

      (1) in section 4--

        (A) in subsection (a)(1), by striking `Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives' and inserting `Independent Ethics Commission'; and

        (B) in subsection (d), by striking `Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives' and inserting `Independent Ethics Commission';

      (2) in section 6, by striking `Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives' and inserting `Independent Ethics Commission';

      (3) in section 7, by striking `Secretary of the Senate or the Clerk of the House of Representatives' and inserting `Independent Ethics Commission'; and

      (4) in section 8, by striking `Secretary of the Senate or the Clerk of the House of Representatives' and inserting `Independent Ethics Commission'.

    (b) TIMING OF REPORTS; ELECTRONIC FILING- Section 5 of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (2 U.S.C. 1604) is amended--

      (1) by amending subsection (a) to read as follows:

    `(a) QUARTERLY REPORTS- No later than 30 day after the end of the 3-month period beginning on January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1 of each year in which a registrant is registered under section 4, each registrant shall file a report with the Independent Ethics Commission on its lobbying activities during that 3-month period. A separate report shall be filed for each client of the registrant.'; and

      (2) by adding at the end the following:

    `(d) ELECTRONIC FILING- Each report filed under subsection (a) shall be filed in electronic form, in addition to any other form that may be required by the Independent Ethics Commission.'.

    (c) AVAILABILITY OF ELECTRONIC FILINGS- Section 6(4) of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (2 U.S.C. 1605) is amended--

      (1) by striking `(4)' and inserting `(4)(A) subject to subparagraph (B),'; and

      (2) by adding at the end the following:

      `(B) not later than 30 days after reports are filed in electronic form under section 5(d), make such reports available to the public over the Internet, without a fee or other access charge;'.

TITLE III--GENERAL PROVISIONS

SEC. 301. TRANSITION PROVISIONS.

    In the case of investigations pending before the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct on the day before 6 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the proceedings shall be continued by the Independent Ethics Commission.

SEC. 302. ACTION ON INDEPENDENT ETHICS COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS.

    (a) PRINTING OF REPORTS IN CONGRESSIONAL RECORD- Upon the receipt by the House of Representatives of any report of the Independent Ethics Commission made to the House of Representatives under section 202(2), the Speaker shall have the report printed in the Congressional Record.

    (b) HOUSE CONSIDERATION OF INDEPENDENT ETHICS COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS- Within 30 calendar days after a report referred to in subsection (a) is printed in the Congressional Record, that portion of the report recommending action by the House of Representatives respecting any alleged violation, by a Member, officer, or employee of the House of Representatives, of any law, rule, regulation, or other standard of conduct applicable to the conduct of such Member, officer, or employee in the performance of his duties or the discharge of his responsibilities shall be introduced (by request) in the House by the majority leader of the House, for himself and the minority leader of the House in the form of a resolution. This resolution shall constitute a question of privilege under rule IX of the Rules of the House of Representatives. Any Member favoring the resolution may call it up as a question of privilege but only on the third day after the calendar date upon which such Member announces to the House his intention to do so.

SEC. 303. EXERCISE OF CONGRESSIONAL RULEMAKING POWER.

    The provisions of title I amending the Rules of the House of Representatives and sections 301 and 302 are enacted by Congress--

      (1) as an exercise of the rulemaking power of the House of Representatives, and as such they shall be considered a part of the rules of the House of Representatives and such rules shall supersede other rules only to the extent that they are inconsistent therewith; and

      (2) with full recognition of the constitutional right of the House of Representatives to change such rules at any time in the same manner and to the same extent as in the case of any other rule of such House.

SEC. 304. EFFECTIVE DATE.

    This Act and the amendments made by it shall take effect 6 months after the date of its enactment, except that sections 201, 204, and 205 shall take effect upon its date of enactment.