A longtime legislative attorney has been tapped to lead the state’s new Office of Legislative Ethics.
Robert Rudolph was approved by the Legislative Council Thursday to serve as chief counsel for the office, which will provide guidance to the General Assembly on ethical questions. Rudolph has been with the Indiana Legislative Services Agency since 1989 and is currently senior staff attorney.
Indiana House of Representatives Speaker Brian Bosma called Rudolph the “right choice” for the new position.
The Office of Legislative Ethics was created in response to an ethics scandal in the House of Representatives during the 2014 session. Former Rep. Eric Turner was investigated for violating the Legislature’s ethics rules for lobbying against a bill that would have been detrimental to his family’s nursing home business.
Turner was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing but in the fallout from the matter, he resigned his seat in the House.
The legislation establishing the office, House Enrolled Act 1002, was authored by Bosma.
“Today we took a major step forward as a result of the Ethics Bill we passed this legislative session,” Bosma said in a statement. “I am very pleased with the establishment of this office which is occurring without any additional cost to taxpayers.”
The ethics office will be part of the LSA’s Office of Bill Drafting and Research. Staff will be shared between the two offices.
Rudolph is well known to the Legislature. He has been involved in the drafting of complex legislation, including election laws and code revisions, and he has written most of the ethics bills. He also serves as the attorney on the House Rules committee.
He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Purdue University and is a 1983 graduate of the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.
The Legislative Council also approved the topics for the General Assembly’s summer study committees. More than 100 topics had been proposed for further study, but the council whittled that list to 40 spread among 13 summer committees.
Although the council unanimously approved the topics, Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane issued a statement critical of Republican leaders for not assigning a Religious Freedom Restoration Act anti-discrimination study. It had been proposed that a study committee look at adding gender identity and sexual orientation to the Indiana Civil Rights Law.
“I’m frustrated my colleagues felt strengthening our state civil rights protection did not merit legislative study,” the Anderson Democrat said. “I am fearful some have failed to absorb the lesson imparted this past session.”
The Committee on Corrections & Criminal Code has a hefty agenda. It has been assigned to examine the problems faced by offenders when they are released from incarceration. In addition, the committee has been charged with studying the state’s adult protective services laws as well as various issues surrounding prostitution, rape and sexual assault, and human trafficking.
A study of Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act has been assigned to the Committee on Courts and Judiciary. The group will examine the possibility of raising the cap on damages as well as potential changes to the medical review panel.
The committee also will review requests for new courts or changes in jurisdiction of existing courts.