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Ethics reform bill approved by Senate

[JURIST] The US Senate passed the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007 [PDF text; CRS summary] by a 96-2 vote [roll call] Thursday, but declined [roll call] to create a Senate Office of Public Integrity to investigate ethics breaches. The bill was the first major initiative taken by the Senate in the new Democrat-dominated session of Congress. The measure regulates lobbying activities [JURIST news archive] by preventing lawmakers from accepting gifts and travel from lobbyists, requiring stricter reporting of lobbying activity, preventing spouses of lawmakers from lobbying the Senate and extending the period a former senator must wait before undertaking lobbying activities to two years. The final text passed by the Senate, however, did not include a provision which would have required disclosure of grass-roots lobbying. Senators voted 55-43 not to include that provision in the bill.

The bill also requires clearer reporting of home state projects, denies pension benefits to those convicted of serious crimes and requires lawmakers to pay the full price fare when traveling on chartered planes. Opponents of the bill complained the measure discouraged free speech by deterring petition drives, but majority leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) [official website] called the measure "the most significant legislation in ethics and lobbying reform we've had in the history of this country." AP has more.

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