Minor Changes to Recusal Laws

H.3198 would amend state law by clarifying that a public official with an economic conflict of interest over a public matter must recuse himself anytime the matter comes before a body or a subset of a body of which the public official is a member. The bill would also increase the length of the prohibition on legislators representing clients in contested cases before boards or agencies, if the legislator voted on the appointment, election, or recommendation of a member of that board/agency. Current law prohibits the representation for 12 months after the legislator voted on the board/agency’s membership, H.3198 would increase the prohibition to 24 months.

Neither of these reforms are likely to be very impactful. Current recusal law depends too much on legislators to volunteer conflicts of interest. Recusal laws will only become effective when legislators are required to disclose all sources of income. And legislators should be permanently prohibited from representing clients before boards/agencies whose membership they voted on, or at least prohibited until the last member whose election/appointment/recommendation they participated in is no longer serving on the board/agency.

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