Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1997-17

Advisory Opinion No. 1997-17
Advisory Opinion No. 1997-17

Effect of June 18 Special Session Public Act No. 97-6
on Regional Receptions Hosted by a Statewide Organization

Section 1 of June18 Special Session Public Act No. 97-6 establishes an additional gift exception for regional receptions. Catherine Nasto, State Ethics Commission Attorney, has asked whether a statewide organization can use this exception to host multiple receptions in different regions of the State.

Sections 1 and 6 of the Public Act, respectively, amend Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79(e) of the Code of Ethics for Public Officials and Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-91(g) of the Code of Ethics for Lobbyists. Both of these sections establish the definition of a "gift" for each of the respective Codes.

Sections 1-79(e)(10) and 1-91(g)(10) exclude from the definition of a gift a publicly noticed legislative reception to which all members of the General Assembly are invited costing less than fifty dollars per person. Sections 1-79(e)(11) and 1-91(g)(11) add another exception to include a publicly noticed reception to which all members of the general assembly from a region of the state are invited costing less than fifty dollars per person. "Region of the state" is further defined to mean "the established geographic service area of the organization hosting the reception."

During the legislative debate in the Senate, Senator LeBeau, Senate Chairperson of the Government Administration and Elections Committee (GAE), in response to a series of questions from Senator Smith, explained that this additional exception was meant to allow just one reception. He emphasized that a state-wide organization, such as the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), would only be able to host one such event and would be precluded from hosting multiple receptions since its established geographic service area would be the entire state. See, Senate Debate on Bill No. 8005, June 23, 1997 at p.____. Furthermore, during the House Debate, Representative Bysiewicz, House Chairperson of GAE, agreed with Representative SanAngelo’s (ranking member of GAE) understanding of legislative intent when he stated that legislative receptions hosted by a state-wide organization were limited to up to fifty dollars which could be held one time, either on a regional or a state wide basis. Under no circumstances could any group hold a series of regional events nor may it host two receptions, i.e. a regional event and then a separate event where all members are invited. See, House Debate on Bill No. 8005, June 20, 1997 at p._______.

However, this does not preclude a regional group from hosting its own regional event separate from its state-wide sister organization which would invite all members of the General Assembly (e.g., Hartford County Association of Realtors could host a reception for Hartford County Legislators and the Connecticut Association of Realtors could also host a separate state-wide reception). This rationale, consistent with the legislative history, allows local groups to hold regional events without having the unnecessary burden of hosting such an event for the entire General Assembly in order to take advantage of the exception to the gift definition.

By order of the Commission,

Maurice FitzMaurice
Chairperson



Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:02:03 AM