Under the Dome

Sex, romance would be a conflict of interest under NC General Assembly proposal

One month after the State Ethics Commission ruled that sex between lobbyists and government officials doesn’t constitute a gift, a bipartisan group of N.C. House members filed legislation Tuesday to make it clear that sexual and romantic relationships are indeed a conflict of interest.

House Bill 252 would require legislators and other government officials to recuse themselves if they’re in a “current dating relationship or current sexual relationship” with a lobbyist who stands to benefit from the issue at hand.

While the legislation doesn’t offer a definition of a “current sexual relationship,” it does provide one for a “current dating relationship.”

“A dating relationship is one wherein the parties are romantically involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship; a casual acquaintance or ordinary fraternization between individuals in a business or social context is not a dating relationship,” the bill says.

The bill is sponsored by two Democrats – Rep. Grier Martin of Raleigh and Rep. Rick Glazier of Fayetteville – and two Republicans, Rep. Leo Daughtry of Smithfield and Rep. John Faircloth of High Point.

The bill doesn’t apply to relationships that have ended. So if someone is no longer having sex with a lobbyist, they wouldn’t have a conflict of interest under the bill.

The proposal appears to be a response to a February opinion from the State Ethics Commission. The widely circulated opinion said sex with a lobbyist isn’t a gift that must be listed on disclosure reports.

“Consensual sexual relationships do not have monetary value and therefore are not reportable as gifts or ‘reportable expenditures made for lobbying’ for purposes of the lobbying law’s expenditure reporting provisions,” the formal advisory opinion said.

If the bill passes, it wouldn’t become effective until July 1. So until then, legislators and others could legally continue to take actions that financially benefit their sexual or romantic partner.

And they still wouldn’t need to list the sex on their ethics forms.