In Kentucky, it is important for legislators to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, state ethics laws define limits on gifts to prevent them from appearing to be bribes or otherwise influencing some official action. State laws vary widely when it comes to these limits.
In Kentucky, the law states that legislators and their spouses must not accept anything of value from an employer or a legislative agent. This includes gifts in most cases. However, it does not refer to gifts given by household members or immediate family members, or a gift from another assembly member.
Other items excluded from the term “anything of value” include the following:
- Goods or services that the legislator receives from an employer or from someone other than a lobbyist
- Campaign contributions that the legislator reports lawfully
- Business loans
- Informational or educational items
- A promotional item valued at less than $50 or commemorative token valued at less than $150
- The cost of participation or attendance at an event to which all members of the Senate or House have invitations, or food and beverages at such an event
Services that someone spontaneously provides during an emergency situation are also exempt from the legal prohibitions on gifts.
The NCSL notes that states also have laws that require gift disclosures under certain circumstances. In Kentucky, unless the gift is from a family member, public officials must disclose the source of any gift given to themselves or a family member that has a retail value of $200 or more.