Ethics: 2007-3

 

 

ADVISORY OPINION 2007-3

 

“Publicly noticed” for purposes of legislative receptions

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board issues this advisory opinion at the request of an assistant ethics enforcement officer with the Office of State Ethics (OSE).  In that request, he asks how the requirement that a legislative reception[1] be “publicly noticed” is satisfied.

 

BACKGROUND

             The following background is relevant to this opinion.  Registered lobbyists and business organizations are permitted to host one legislative reception per year, either a state-wide legislative reception to which all members of the General Assembly are invited or a reception to which all members of the General Assembly from a region of the state are invited.  General Statutes §§ 1-79 (e) (10) and (11) and 1-91 (g) (10) and (11).  These receptions must be “publicly noticed.”  Although the term “publicly noticed” has not been defined in an advisory opinion, the staff of the former State Ethics Commission (former Commission) advised lobbyists that legislative receptions should be noticed in the Connecticut General Assembly’s Bulletin (Bulletin) to satisfy the “publicly noticed” requirement. 

            The Bulletin is a report published under the direction of the clerks of the Senate and the House of Representatives.  It includes the schedule for legislative sessions, public hearings, and committee meetings.  It contains a “notes of interest” section, in which any event that concerns legislators or staff (such as legislative receptions) is published.  The Bulletin is published daily when the General Assembly is in session, and an interim Bulletin is published by the Office of Legislative Management when the legislature is not in session.  The interim Bulletin is published on a weekly basis.  It contains notices of events taking place at the state capitol or in the Legislative Office Building (LOB) only – but not of events occurring elsewhere.

QUESTION

 

            The assistant ethics enforcement officer asks how the requirement that legislative receptions be “publicly noticed” is satisfied.

 

ANALYSIS

 

            There is no legislative history that sheds light on the “public notice” requirement.  One of the former Commission attorneys was of the opinion that one of the reasons to “publicly notice” legislative receptions in the Bulletin is to alert all legislators and “alleviate doubt in any legislator’s mind as to whether their colleague from the other side of the aisle (or whomever) also received the invitation.”  Request for Advisory Opinion No. 3916.  We believe, however, that the Bulletin does much more than that.  It alerts all interested legislators as well as interested members of the public.  We will, therefore, continue the practice of requiring that public notice of all legislative receptions be provided in the Bulletin when the legislature is in session, or in the interim Bulletin when the legislature is not in session (for events that will be hosted in the capitol or LOB). 

 

Another issue remains, however, as to how to notice a legislative reception when the legislature is not in session and the event is not being held at the capitol or LOB.  Any receptions held outside of the capitol or LOB when the legislature is not in session still require the same level of notice to all legislators as well as to members of the public.  Therefore, any legislative receptions hosted outside of the state capitol or the LOB while the legislature is not in session should be noticed in a newspaper of general circulation.  A newspaper that is circulated throughout the state of Connecticut should be used for a statewide legislative reception; a local newspaper (circulated only in a region of the state) may be used for a regional reception.

         

CONCLUSION

 

It is the opinion of the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board that the requirement that legislative receptions be “publicly noticed” is satisfied by publishing the event in the Bulletin or in the interim Bulletin.  When those options are not available, notice should be published in a newspaper, circulating either statewide or regionally, depending on the nature of the event.

 

 

By order of the Board,

 

 

 

                                                                                                Patricia T. Hendel, Chairperson

 

 

Dated January 25, 2007

 



[1] The Code of Ethics for Public Officials and the Code of Ethics for Lobbyists exempt from the definition of gift “food or beverage or both, costing less than fifty dollars per person and consumed at a publicly noticed legislative reception to which all members of the General Assembly are invited and which is hosted not more than once in any calendar year by a lobbyist or business organization.”  General Statutes §§ 1-79 (e) (10) and 1-91 (g) (10).  They further exempt “food or beverage or both, costing less than fifty dollars per person and consumed at a publicly noticed reception to which all members of the General Assembly from a region of the state are invited and which is hosted not more than once in any calendar year by a lobbyist or business organization. . . . As used in this subdivision, ‘region of the state’ means the established geographic service area of the organization hosting the reception.”  (Emphasis added.)  General Statutes §§ 1-79 (e) (11) and 1-91 (g) (11).   

 



Content Last Modified on 1/29/2007 11:10:49 AM