Ethics panel: Gift ban doesn’t bar scholarships |

Ethics panel: Gift ban doesn’t bar scholarships

DENVER ” The state’s ethics commission has ruled that the children of government workers can still receive scholarships under the strict ethics law passed by voters.

Amendment 41 bans lawmakers, government workers and their immediate family from accepting gifts worth more than $50. Following its passage in 2006, there was disagreement over whether it would prevent their children from accepting scholarships.

The ethics commission, which was created by Amendment 41, published a position statement Tuesday that says scholarships shouldn’t be considered as gifts. But two members of the five-person panel disagreed and issued a dissenting opinion on that part of the ruling.

The majority opinion states that scholarships shouldn’t be considered gifts because students have to meet certain requirements, such as maintaining a certain grade point average, in order to keep the scholarship.

However, commissioners Sally Hopper and Matt Smith said the law specifically exempts some items from the gift ban but scholarships are not included in that list.

They cited the 2006 voter’s guide on ballot questions, stating that one argument against passing the law was that it would prohibit government workers or their children from receiving scholarships.

The disagreement over the law’s meaning could invite another court challenge to the law.

However, Jane Feldman, the commission’s executive director, said courts usually consider the majority opinion in issuing a ruling on the law.

In the new ruling, the panel said that public employees and officials usually can accept speaking fees of $50 as long as the speech isn’t part of their official duties and the government official isn’t conducting any business with the group.

Feldman said the commission plans to issue more rulings on the law regarding lobbying and its “revolving door” provision. It prohibits a statewide elected official or state legislator from lobbying after they leave office for two years.

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