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Latarski: Bring ethics to the assembly
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There are rumblings at the General Assembly, talk of toughening ethics laws and making elected officials more accountable.

This is an annual event at the General Assembly. The discussions are like my New Year's Resolution to lose weight, which is going well because I've only gained four pounds. We all know how New Year Resolutions turn out.

The rumblings we hear are likely caused from legislators eating too much pizza--probably paid for by lobbyists--and come the 41st day this too shall have passed.

The reason is simple: the people who live by these rules are the ones who are in charge of making them so there is no reason to make the game hard on yourself.

Golf is the only sport where competitors call penalties on themselves. Professional golfers play the game with a level of integrity and honesty unique to sports. A professional golfer who knowingly cheats will soon be mowing grass at a driving range.

You never saw Deion Sanders tell an official, "Yes, I got to the receiver just a step too soon and it should be pass interference." He did that a lot and got away with it but that's the nature of that game.

While the rules of golf may be the same for everyone, the non-professional tends to have a separate set of standards.

Moving a ball out of a divot or kicking it away from a pile of rocks is generous use of the "Winter Rules" philosophy, which most weekend golfers use deep into August.

I know one guy who will hit the ball so far in the woods you might see Daniel Boone before finding the ball, yet somehow he disappears and in a few minutes you hear him yell, "I got it!" Not only has this person never lost a ball I don't think he's ever bought a new one. The only amazing thing is he's not in the General Assembly.

I play with another fellow who has never hit a ball out of bounds if it happens to be close to the line. I don't think he's ever moved the ball but I'm pretty sure he's moved a couple of out of bounds markers.

They do not consider this cheating. They are just playing the game the way they want, just like some in the General Assembly.

We have elected leaders who can follow ethics laws so weak and full of loopholes they can get away shenanigans without actually violating the rules. Then we have some who believe ethics means you do whatever you can get away with.

So each year we hear blather about toughening ethical standards and the issue sinks like my ball into the murky pond because that's the last thing legislators really want.

We need tough ethics laws to governor our elected officials and elected officials who want to live by such laws because it is simply the right thing to do.

The rules should be straightforward, written in clear and simple language so the dullest of elected officials or lobbyist can understand what is expected. And the penalties for violating these rules should be severe.

It is not just a matter of common decency on the part of the people who represent us but also a matter of pride and integrity, something you think our elected representatives would embrace. Unfortunately it will not happen.

I get the feeling our legislators are not the kind of folks who would move the ball, but they sure will move the markers.

Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at