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Ramsey: Willpower may be lacking on ethics merger

Ramsey: Willpower may be lacking on ethics merger

Posted: Thursday, May 7, 2009 8:01 pm

NASHVILLE (AP) — Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey on Wednesday blamed what he called unfair media coverage for possibly scuttling an effort to merge the Tennessee Ethics Commission with the state Registry of Election Finance.
The Blountville Republican said all current ethics laws would stay on the books under the merger, and that combining the two entities would save money.
“I don’t know the political willpower is there to do that, simply because the media attention that it’s received — unfairly, to be honest,” Ramsey said. “Nothing is going to be scaled back in terms of ethics in the state of Tennessee. Everything we passed would remain there.”
The ethics commission was established in the aftermath of the FBI’s Tennessee Waltz corruption sting in 2005 that led to the convictions of five former lawmakers. The panel is set to expire at the end of June if lawmakers don’t extend it.
Ramsey’s comments came after the House State Government Subcommittee advanced a bill calling for the merger if the ethics commission fails to be renewed. The voice vote on the bill sponsored by Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, was taken without debate.
Democratic Gov. Phil Bred-esen has spoken out against combining the two panels, saying he doesn’t find ethics and campaign finance “a natural partnership.”
Ramsey said the ethics commission has grown into a “typical government bureaucracy,” and that it could complete its work with just one or two employees. He rejected suggestions that the commission needs the staff to register and vet personal disclosure forms from state and local officials, register lobbyists and their employers and conduct training sessions.
The commission also issues advisory opinions and considers ethics complaints.
“I think that can be done with less, I firmly believe that,” Ramsey said.
The speaker said the merger proposal is not aimed at the commission’s executive director, Bruce Androphy.
“I haven’t had any problems with him,” Ramsey said. “I’ve not had any run-ins with him. Some members have, but I can honestly say I’m not one of those.”
As House and Senate panels have considered the ethics commission’s future, Androphy has been placed in the unusual position of having one of the panel’s commissioners, Nashville attorney Linda Knight, often taking the podium after him to give her own varying account of the commission’s operations.
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Published in The Messenger 5.7.09