Virginia House leaders back $100 gift cap

12/31/2014 –

House Republican leaders said Wednesday that they’ll back a $100 gift cap for legislators and other government officials as part of an evolving ethics reform package planned for the upcoming legislative session.

That would bring the legislature and other state and local officials subject to the cap roughly in line with Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration, which has a $100 cap set by executive order. It would go further than a McAuliffe-appointed ethics advisory group suggested last month, and further than the General Assembly agreed to go earlier this year, when it tackled this same issue.

Back then, legislators agreed to a $250 cap, but left out so-called “intangible” gifts, such as meals or tickets. This new cap would include those as well.

The stronger measures are a direct response to former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s conviction in federal court earlier this year on a string of fraud charges connected to gifts he and his family took from a Virginia businessman. Speaker of the House William Howell and Senate Republican Leader Thomas K. “Tommy” Norment promised after McDonnell’s conviction to revisit ethics reforms their chambers approved only months before.

House Republican leaders, in a statement sent out Wednesday afternoon, called those initial reforms “strong.” But they added that the need for more reform is clear.

Other changes, beyond the cap, will come together as the legislature heads toward its new session, which starts January 14.

“This is one of several concepts that we will support during the 2015 session,” the speaker and four other key members of the House leadership said in a statement. “We are continuing to evaluate potential reforms, including the recommendations made by the Governor’s commission, and expect to make additional announcements before the start of session.”