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State senator introduces ethics bill to ban all gifts from lobbyists

On the first day of the Indiana General Assembly’s 2017 session, a bill has been filed that would bring massive ethics reform to state government.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - On the first day of the Indiana General Assembly’s 2017 session, a bill has been filed that would bring massive ethics reform to state government.

Tuesday morning, Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel) introduced a bill that would make it illegal for Indiana lawmakers to accept a gift from a lobbyist. Gifts prohibited by the proposed legislation would include any property that has value, such as tickets to athletic events and anything that may be classified as entertainment.

The bill would also require lobbyists to keep a public log of all communication with lawmakers, and lobbyists would have to update those logs frequently. Texts and emails between lobbyists and state lawmakers would - for the first time - become public records.

"It is important that the public trusts that their elected officials are putting their interests ahead of special interests," Delph told WTHR. "It is time the Indiana General Assembly give serious consideration to both a complete gift ban from special interest groups as well as demand full transparency of all special interest contact with legislators -- particularly those entrusted with special authority."

Delph told Eyewitness News he knows many of his colleagues at the Indiana Statehouse might oppose the bill, but he believes ethics reform and more transparency are badly needed.

"It is my hope that the legislation I introduced today both starts a much-needed discussion, but also leads to true meaningful ethics reform so that we remain a government of, by, and for the people. We must always strive to maintain the trust and confidence of the residents of the State of Indiana," he said.

Current Indiana law places few restrictions on gifts to legislators, and gift reporting – required by state law – is often incomplete. Outgoing Gov. Mike Pence and other lawmakers have waged legal fights to keep their email and text communications private. Those communications are currently exempt from public disclosure if a lawmaker or elected state officials chooses to keep them secret.