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Ethics Tutorial - Colorado General Assembly

- Conflict-of-interest and voting on legislation - 1 of 25

Background

Under Colorado Const. art. V, sec. 43, House Rule 21(c), Senate Rules 17(c) and 41, and Joint Rule 42, a member of the General Assembly who has a personal or financial interest in pending legislation is required to disclose the fact of that interest and may not vote on the legislation. Ethical principles set forth in statute, such as section 24-18-107, C.R.S., also provide guidance in matters of conflict of interest. An improper conflict of interest situation does not arise from legislation affecting the entire membership of a class. Joint Rule 42 specifies that a legislator shall be considered to have a personal, private, or financial interest in a pending bill, measure, or question if the passage or failure of the legislation will result in the legislator deriving a direct financial or pecuniary benefit that is greater than any such benefit derived by or shared by other persons in the legislator's profession, occupation, industry or region. Joint Rule 42 further provides that a legislator shall not be deemed to have such an interest in legislation where that interest arises from legislation affecting the entire membership of a class to which the legislator belongs.

Hypothetical

Legislator's financial interest in legislation arising from benefits from legislation accruing to spouse
 
A bill is being considered by the General Assembly that would provide comprehensive state assistance to promote biotechnological research within the state as well as related commercial applications. The assistance includes tax benefits and the establishment of a special state fund and a new grants program. You are a member of the General Assembly and your spouse is a well-known and well-recognized research scientist who heads a special institute for biotechnological research at one of our state's leading research universities. Under the bill, state financial assistance would be directed to a variety of public and private entities but significant resources would be particularly directed to the institute headed by your spouse. It is likely the benefits from the bill would have the effect of increasing the institute's budget and your spouse's national profile and income.

Question


May you vote on the legislation?

Select YES.  Since the legislation only benefits your spouse, there is no problem voting on the legislation.

Select YES.  With sluggish economic growth, the legislation is vital for creating jobs and members need to put aside their private qualms about ethics and enact good programs.

Select YES.  The legislation would appear to distribute benefits to many private and public entities across the state. You can vote on the legislation because all persons with an interest in the legislation amount to one big class of persons.

Select NO.  By virtue of your spouse's position, you have a personal, private, or financial interest in the legislation necessitating your abstention from voting on the bill.


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Last updated: 31 OCT 2014


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