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UPDATED: Legislators reject McDonnell ethics amendment; governor mulls bill

Anita Kumar

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) told reporters last night that he was unlikely to veto any bills this session even though there are a few that he doesn't like too much. He has 30 days to make a decision.

If there is a possible candidate for a veto, here it is: the ethics bill.

Legislators rejected McDonnell's amendment to HB 655 to end the public investigation into a legislator and send the case to the attorney general if the lawmaker has left office.

McDonnell made it clear in a chat with reporters late last night that he thought lawmakers had made a mistake in rejecting his change.

"I think it would be faster, more efficient. It made perfect sense to me," he said. "What you have is more political. I think that really is undermining that process."

Updated: McDonnell spokesman Tucker Matin said the governor will not veto the bill.

House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D-Henry) encouraged his colleagues to allow the investigation to continue until its conclusion and remain public -- neither of which would have happened if the governor's amendment passed.

"If there's an ongoing investigation and someone has left the House, there's nothing the legislature can do,'' McDonnell said. "The only sanction is to expel the person. That person is already gone. There's nothing you can do, so why continue a hearing over it somewhere you may not have legal jurisdiction?"

Virginia law allows a legislative ethics panel to refer complaints to the attorney general if an inquiry shows that a legislator willfully violated conflict-of-interest law.

The federal investigation into one of Virginia's most powerful legislators prompted a flurry of ethics bills this year. Then-Del. Phillip Hamilton (R-Newport News) sought a job at Old Dominion University while securing money for the school as one of the legislature's dozen budget negotiators.

Armstrong's bill will require a legislative panel to hold its meetings in public once its investigation has moved beyond a preliminary phase and to continue even if a legislator resigns from office. Hamilton lost his bid for reelection in November and resigned before his term had concluded, ending the House of Delegates investigation into his conduct.

By Anita Kumar  |  April 22, 2010; 7:00 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , State Senate  
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So, he wanted to turn over an investigation of a resigned legislator to Cuccinelli and said that would make it less political?

Someone needs to let the Governor know he's about 3 weeks late for April Fools.

Posted by: jeffersonian1 | April 23, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

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