By the first of the year, financial disclosure reports for members of the Maryland General Assembly must be posted online.
Currently, if anyone wants to look at financial disclosure forms, they have to go to Annapolis and see them in person. Since that can be an arduous task for anyone who doesn't live close to the capital, lawmakers earlier this year passed a bill that would put the information online.
"The problem is that we are a part-time legislature, and we are in for just 90 days a year," says State Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), who sponsored the measure. "Which means for most of us, the General Assembly is not our primary source of livelihood, it's not our primary employment."
The forms show what employment legislators and their spouses have outside of the General Assembly. That the forms weren't online previously was one of many reasons Maryland received a D- grade in the State Integrity Investigation, which looked at the risk of government corruption in each state.
Maryland received F's for both public access to information and legislative accountability, and Raskin's bill could help raise the grade in both areas. But his original legislation went further, in terms of the information disclosed and who had to disclose it. The House of Delegates removed language requiring that members of the governor's administration have their reports online
But Raskin thinks that will change. "Once the information goes online and the worst fears of some elected officials are dispelled, then I think there will be a greater openness to expanding the program in the future," Raskin says.
As for getting the forms online by the deadline of January 1 of next year, Raskin says that is going to be surprisingly easy.
"Most officials have been filing their information online," Raskin says. "So it's not as if they're taking paper records and then being forced to digitize them."
State Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George's County) was put on trial last year on charges he used his influence in Annapolis to benefit a supermarket chain that paid him for consulting work — payments he never disclosed. Currie was acquitted, but his colleagues in the Senate voted unanimously to censure him this year.
This story is brought to you as part of a partnership between WAMU 88.5 News and the State Integrity Investigation.