Panel to consider ethics bill Thursday

The House Rules Committee on Thursday will consider sweeping reforms to the state’s ethics laws and are expected to debate changes created to make it more palatable to citizen activists.

The bill, House Bill 142, sponsored by Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, would ban all lobbyist gifts to individual lawmakers but would continue to permit group dinners and travel on lobbyists’ dime.

But the measure drew criticism from some, including tea party activists, for a proposed broadening of the definition of lobbyist. Those critics argued the bill would require people like them, who are unpaid, to register as a lobbyist and file disclosure reports.

Ralston already tweaked his measure to lower the registration fee from $320 to $25 and made clear it would not apply to the average citizen who visits the Capitol.