Ethics Committee Fines Two Texas Legislators

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DALLAS (AP) - Two legislative leaders have been fined $1,000 each for failing to report "appreciation gifts."

Such gifts have been part of the state House and Senate committee
process for generations.

Representatives Allan Ritter and Phil King were assesses the fines in recent weeks. It's a possible sign that the Texas Ethics Commission is taking seriously criticism that it has lacked the will to enforce ethics laws.

Ritter, a Democrat from Nederland, received a shotgun and boots from the economic development committee in 2005.

King, a Weatherford Republican, was given a $600 gift certificate to outdoors retailer Bass Pro Shops by the regulated industries committee.

Ritter said he was simply following the advice of other chairmen when he didn't report the gifts.

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach King were unsuccessful.

About a dozen chairmen contacted by The Dallas Morning News said
they had no idea the law pertained to committee gifts.

Only one chairman out of 55 in the Legislature reported his gift last year.
Joe Crabb, a Republican from Atascocita, got two cows from the redistricting committee.

The fines signal a change in course for an ethics commission that has been criticized recently for determining that descriptions for gifts weren't required when reporting them.

For instance, a gift of money could be described as merely a "check" or "cash".