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Local lawmakers question if ethics bills go far enough

Local lawmakers question if ethics bills go far enough (Image 1) (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is considering several bills that would hold Virginia politicians more accountable.

The General Assembly passed ethics reform before the session wrapped up in late February.

But now some politicians are questioning if it goes far enough.

"Today, under the new bill, someone can't give me a $200 gift but they can cut me a $10,000 check (for my campaign)," said Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke).

As it stands now, the gift limit for politicians is set at $250 per gift. 

The new bills passed would lower it to $100 and set up an ethics commission to monitor reimbursements for politicians travel expenses.

Rasoul said this is just a drop in the bucket and much more needs to be done.

"Until we have comprehensive campaign finance reform, redistricting reform and an ethics commission with some kind of subpoena power, unfortunately we won't have significant changes in ethics," he said.

Others like Del. Greg Habeeb (R-Salem) are happy to see progress.

Last year, we took a good first step and this year we took another step," he said. "This is one of those things we'll address on an ongoing basis."

Habeeb, who is an attorney in Roanoke, said people will always find a way to beat the system. But reform is about more than punishment.

"Is it going to prevent somebody in the future from doing something inappropriate? Of course not," he said. "The question is, can we bring public trust in the process? You do that with stricter requirements, more accountability, more transparency."

Governor Terry McAuliffe can sign the bills into law, veto them, or send them back to the General Assembly with amendments.

He has until March 29 to decide.