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Indiana legislative panel not making recommendations on changes to lawmaker ethics rules

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INDIANAPOLIS — A state legislative panel isn't making any recommendations on possible ethics rules changes that the General Assembly is expected to consider during its upcoming session.

The chairman of the House Ethics Committee said legislative leaders will be sent a summary of testimony it received following ethics investigations, including one involving a top member of the Republican House leadership.

Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana, told the committee on Monday she believed the financial disclosure statements that lawmakers complete need updating and that ethics rules should prohibit lawmakers from using their positions for private gain for themselves, their immediate families or business partners.

"Lobbying for the passage or defeat of legislation is a very different thing, particularly when a member has disclosed a conflict," she said.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said last week that reviewing legislative ethics rules would be a top priority during the session that starts in January.

The review follows ethics troubles involving House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner, R-Cicero. An Associated Press investigation found that Turner had millions of dollars at stake through his family nursing home business when he successfully fought a ban on nursing home construction earlier this year.

Turner, who has consistently said he did nothing wrong, announced last month that he would resign if re-elected to take a job with a megachurch group in Atlanta.

Ethics committee Chairman Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, said legislative leaders would receive the panel's summary before the end of the year.

Committee member Rep. Gail Riecken, D-Evansville, said she wanted to see a better definition of conflict of interest in the ethics rules.

"The one we have now is more geared toward the staff," she said. "We need something that is more geared toward the legislator."

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