Gov. Deval Patrick says he will veto an ethics bill if it weakens the power of the State Ethics Commission, the investigative body primarily responsible for enforcing conflict-of-interest laws.
The move comes after the Senate passed an ethics bill on Thursday that tightens campaign financing and lobbying laws, while reducing and transferring some of the powers of the commission.
“I think it sends a very confusing message to the public, at a time when the focus is on strengthening the ethics and lobbying laws, to be weakening the authority of the ethics commission,” Patrick said.
Supporters of the bill say the commission has at times overstepped its authority and that the bill consolidates enforcement powers that are now shared by several departments.
Senate backers also note that the bill goes further than an earlier version proposed by Patrick, by ending the practice of allowing donations of up to $5,000 to political parties for special gubernatorial funds, including one used by Patrick.
The governor said he is generally supportive of the campaign finance components of the Senate bill.
Both the legislature and Patrick vowed to make ethics reform a high priority following a string of political scandals in Boston and on Beacon Hill, including the arrest last year of former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson on federal bribery charges.
The ethics bill now goes to a joint House-Senate committee.