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The ethics commission is still a political football; kickoff is Monday

You all remember the ethics bill in the state Legislature. If you forgot, click here for NPT archives found using the search words “ethics legislature.”

That was the easy part. Now the county has to figure out how to implement an Ethics Commission. Coming in the heat of an election season, with public corruption cases working through the court system, that’s going to be one hell of a fight. Speaking of which, we missed the County Commissioners’ Court meeting yesterday, but heard that the battle already has begun.

Using a football analogy (yes, baseball is America’s Pastime, but c’mon, more people watch freakin’ exhibition football watch baseball games that count), this event Monday can be considered the kickoff in the effort to create an El Paso Ethics Commission.

Representative Márquez and Senator Shapleigh to Hold Press Conference Urging County Action on Ethics Bill

EL PASO, TX- The El Paso delegation, following a milestone legislative triumph during the 81st legislative session, is currently working to ensure that SB 1368, the El Paso County Ethics Bill, takes effect in El Paso after it becomes enacted into law on September 1st, 2009. State Representative Marisa Márquez (D-El Paso) and State Senator Eliot Shapleigh (D-El Paso) who led the fight for ethics reform, will collaborate on a joint statement to the press on August 24, 2009.

The press conference will be held at the El Paso County courthouse and will pertain entirely to SB 1368, authored by Shapleigh and sponsored by Márquez. The bill establishes an independently functioning El Paso County Ethics Commission, which will be authorized to create an enforceable code of conduct. This bill requires county action to be implemented in El Paso.

Márquez and Shapleigh look forward to addressing any questions or concerns regarding this crucial piece of legislation.

WHO: State Representative Marisa Márquez and State Senator Eliot Shapleigh,
Supportive El Paso County guests

WHAT: Press Conference

WHEN: Monday, August 24, 2009 9:00 AM

WHERE: El Paso County Courthouse

500 E. San Antonio

El Paso, Texas 79901

Written by newspapertreeelpaso

August 18, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Dehne v. Avanino , 219 F. Supp. 2d 1096, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24529 (D. Nev. 2001)

    SHEPARD’S SUMMARY Hide Summary

    Unrestricted Shepard’s Summary

    No negative subsequent appellate history.

    Vague laws that may be a trap for the unwary are disfavored, particularly when the statute at issue “‘abut(s) upon sensitive areas of basic First Amendment freedoms'” and it may “‘inhibit the exercise of (those) freedoms.'” Id. at 109 (citations omitted).. The question then is whether the boundaries of N.R.S. §§ 281.525(1) and 281.551(2)(a) are clearly drawn. It is this court’s view that they are not.The terms “false,” “deceptive,” “misleading,” and “bad faith” are not defined, which is of great importance because the statutes seek to regulate speech critical of public officials. If the legislature wishes to trod on First Amendment ground and regulate such speech, it must do so with the utmost specificity and clarity. There lies in the plain meaning of these statutes the potential to punish protected expression about the conduct of public officials, along with the equally troubling prospect of subjective or discriminatory enforcement. “A vague law impermissibly delegates basic policy matters to policemen, judges, and juries for resolution on an ad hoc and subjective basis, with the attendant dangers of arbitrary and discriminatory application.” Id. at 108-09. c. Overbreadth Plaintiffs also challenge N.R.S. §§ 281.525(1) and 281.551(2)(a) as overbroad because they are content-based laws which proscribe more speech than is necessary to fulfill a compelling state interest. Village of Schaumberg v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 444 U.S. 620, 637, 63 L. Ed. 2d 73, 100 S. Ct. 826 (1980). HN20To find that a statute is overbroad, “there must be [**25] a realistic danger that the statute itself will significantly compromise recognized [*1111] First Amendment protections of parties not before the Court ….” City Council of Los Angeles v. Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 U.S. 789, 801, 80 L. Ed. 2d 772, 104 S. Ct. 2118 (1984) (citations omitted). These statutes may have the general effect of chilling citizens’ willingness to lodge complaints about possible ethical violations by public officials. The obvious intent of the statutes is to discourage citizens from filing false allegations of ethical misconduct about public officials with the motive to harass public officials and damage their reputations. However, the statutes go beyond that compelling state interest. For example, a citizen may file a complaint about an official’s alleged ethical misconduct that he or she believes is true. Even if the allegations are deemed true, the Commission may decide they are in some way deceptive or misleading; hence, the citizen may be subject to criminal and civil penalties. Nevada Revised Statutes § 281.551(2)(a) authorizes the Commission to adjudge whether a citizen is motivated by bad faith or is acting with a vexatious purpose in filing [**26] an ethics complaint. Even if the allegations of the complaint are true, a citizen may nevertheless be charged with a misdemeanor or a fine of up to $ 5,000.00 because the Commission finds the complaint was lodged in bad faith or for a vexatious purpose. HN21The Commission is entitled to serve legitimate state interests, “but it must do so by narrowly drawn [statutes] designed to serve those interests without unnecessarily interfering with First Amendment freedoms.” Village of Schaumberg, 444 U.S. 620 at 637 (citations omitted). HN22This court finds these statutes overbroad because they proscribe more speech than is necessary and there is a realistic potential that they will discourage protected speech.

    Carl Starr

    September 17, 2009 at 10:21 am

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