Ethics bill passes House, heads to Pres. Mellark

The Ethics and Transparency Act, championed by President Mellark, has officially passed the House of Representatives today in a tight vote.

The bill passed by a vote of 109 ayes to 91 nays, with 21 Liberty members and 9 Conservative members voting for the Act. The bill, which is now expected to be signed by the President in a ceremony at Stonehaven tomorrow, is the first bill championed by the President that crosses party lines and is opposed heavily by the President’s Liberty Party.

The opposition party leaders heralded the bill’s passage, calling it “a major landmark in Panem’s history” and “a step in the right direction.” The Speaker, Wes Summerfield, called the bill’s success “a moment of relief” for him and the leadership.

The bill, once signed, will institute a ban on officeholders participating in lobbying on behalf of a foreign government at any point and institute a five-year ban on lobbying after leaving a position in the government, regardless if appointed or elected. It also will implement more stringent penalties for those participating in unethical or illegal behavior relating to lobbying and other similar professions.

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Summerfield says whip count shows close vote on ethics reform, but remains confident in passage

Speaker Wes Summerfield (Liberty-D4) said on Monday that while the whip count he currently has shows a close vote on ethics reform, he remains confident that the House of Representatives will pass the bill.

Summerfield noted that he’s expecting a close vote, “in the realm of 101 to 110 votes for the bill,” and that he’s confident that the House will choose to pass the bill. The bill requires 101 votes to pass. The Centre, Civic, and Labor Parties announced their support for the bill once it was announced, which would indicate that the bill will need 23 members of the majority to vote in favor for it to pass.

Ethics reform has become a hot topic within the Liberty and Conservative Parties. President Peeta Mellark chose to champion such reforms after the election, but his party and the Conservative Party, who are mutual partners in the government of the House of Representatives, have expressed concerns over the bill that has been put forward. Their assertions are that such reforms are compromising the separation of powers in Panem’s government and are presidential overreach.

At the current moment, our independent whip count at The Panem Free Press is similar to what Summerfield described today. With the results of the Senate vote, we saw that while there’s opposition, it isn’t nearly as intense as what people are expecting. We can also affirm through sources that at least 27 members of the Liberty Party and 8 members of the Conservative Party are heavily considering voting for the bill to pass.

Senate passes government transparency bill

The Panem Senate became the first chamber to pass the government transparency bill championed by President Peeta Mellark (Liberty-D12), putting the bill one step closer to becoming law. The bill, though championed by the President, garnered larger than expected opposition from Liberty senators in the vote today.

The bill, which would impose a five-year ban on public officials lobbying after leaving office, a lifetime ban on public officials lobbying on behalf of foreign governments, and stiffer penalties for bribery of public officials and public officials engaging in insider trading, is now set to go to the House of Representatives, where it is uncertain to pass.

The vote breakdown is as follows:

Ayes (21): Bass (Lib-D1), Benson (Lib-Capitol), Canstrom (Lab-D9), Debroff (Lib-D11), Delacruz (Lib-D5), Delsont (Lib-D11), Ellsworth (Lib-D3), Garrett (Centre-D15)Harrison (Lib-D4), Newsom (Civic-D3), Kennedy (Civic-D6)Kramer (Civic-D6), Quaker (Lib-D12), Quirius (Lib-D5), Randall (Centre-D9), Richards (Lab-D10), Roydon (Centre-Capitol), Trent (Lib-D12), Wallace (Lab-D8), Walters (Lab-D10), Weston (Lib-D1)

Nays (11): Briscoe (Lib-D7), Folsom (Lib-D8), Hampton (Lib-D2), James (Lib-D2), Lémieux (Lib-D14), Oppenheim (Lib-D13), Sanford (Lib-D15), Talton (Lib-D13), Thibault (Lib-D14), Wallace (Lib-D4), Warner (Lib-D7)

Senate confirms Jonathan Madison as Sec. of State, Valère Descoteaux as Sec. of Defense

The Senate confirmed today the last of the nominees put forward by President Peeta Mellark (Liberty-D12).

Jonathan Madison (Liberty-D4) officially will move from the Defense Department to the State Department, replacing longtime Secretary of State Celine Oswald (Liberty-D13). Secretary Madison, who served as Secretary of Defense for the first Everdeen administration, the Canth administration, the Wilson administration, and the first Mellark administration, has previously served in the role of Panem’s top diplomat in the second Everdeen administration. That time featured Madison manning the State Department during the Fourth World War, which led to a larger leadership role for Panem diplomatically during and following the conflict. Oswald has been elected as the Chairwoman of the Liberty National Committee since announcing her retirement as Secretary of State. Madison will now oversee an extremely active international scene as the Grecorussian Empire collapses and terrorism still persists as an international issue.

Valère Descoteaux (Liberty-D14) has also been confirmed today to replace Jonathan Madison as Secretary of Defense. Descoteaux currently serves as the junior senator from District 14, Panem’s only overseas district. He is the brother of current Secretary of the Treasury Rosalie Descoteaux, and the two made history today as this is the first time that siblings have served in the Cabinet together. District 14 is home to multiple military bases of strategic importance to the nation of Panem, providing defense against antagonistic nations in Europe, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia. Descoteaux also served as the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee while in the Senate, which forced Descoteaux to recuse himself from any votes on the committee and in the Senate pertaining to nominations for the Cabinet. Under Panem law and Senate rules and procedures, senators that are nominated for any position that must be considered by the Senate must recuse themselves from any voting that occurs on their nomination as it would constitute a conflict of interest. The pick of Descoteaux was considered to be a surprise by many observers, including some in the government and is likely to elevate the stature of Descoteaux in Panem politics by putting him in a much more public role as Secretary, which has been a common stepping-stone for a future federal run for public office.

Madison was confirmed by a voice vote. Descoteaux, however, was confirmed by a vote of 22-10, with only Liberty senators voting to confirm.

President Mellark announces government transparency initiatives

President Peeta Mellark (Liberty-D12) announced a set of government transparency initiatives today that would limit the amount of influence of interest groups, lobbyists, and corporate entities on the federal government.

The reforms would institute a five-year ban on Congressional, senatorial, or executive officials in the federal government from participating in lobbying activities on behalf of interest groups or corporate entities after an official leaves office. Such a reform would require Congressional approval at minimum to enforce such reforms on Congress but would not require Congressional approval for executive agencies to follow such guidelines. However, President Mellark is seeking that the ban be put in place across the board in the bill in order to set such reform into law.

In addition to the five-year ban, the reforms would also implement harsher penalties on officeholders who commit crimes such as bribery or insider trading as well as implement a lifetime ban on officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government. “No public official that serves the nation of Panem should be serving another country,” President Mellark remarked. “The standards for our public officials should be higher than the bar we have set in the past.”

The reception of the announcement has been mixed. While the Centre Party heralded the reforms and declared a “win against corruption,” multiple Liberty officials remain undecided or privately opposed to such reforms, calling them “excessive” and “political interference from Stonehaven.” While it appears likely that the bill will receive significant support, it is uncertain if this legislation will garner enough support from the Liberty and Conservative Parties to pass through Congress.

Speaker Wes Summerfield (Liberty-D4) and Senate Majority Leader Michael Debroff (Liberty-D11) announced their intentions to usher the bill through their chambers’ ethics committees in order to bring it to a vote on the floor at the earliest possible moment.

Grecorussian Empire formally dissolves into the Russian Empire and the Nation of Greece

The Grecorussian Empire has officially dissolved, according a document procured by foreign media. The document, passed by the Grecorussian legislature and signed by Emperor Alexander IV and President Rostislav Alexeieva, formally dissolves the Grecorussian Empire into two separate entities.

The first entity is that of the nation of Greece (or the Hellenic Republic), which comprises the area claimed by the rebel Greek government from the Grecorussian Civil War. The second entity is that of the Russian Empire, which comprises the remainder of the land of the Grecorussian Empire.

This move comes after many negotiations between the Greek rebels and the Grecorussian government, who the Greeks view as oppressive. The relinquishing of Greece is seen as a concession to the rebels to end a bloody conflict that had no end in sight, according to foreign policy analysts.

The new Russian Empire has already submitted documentation to the Council of Nations to be considered the successor state to the Grecorussian Empire, which is expected to be accepted by Secretary-General Trevor Patton. The government of the Russian Empire is expected to be a holdover from the Grecorussian government, with the government of Prime Minister Carolina Golubova, President Alexeieva, and Emperor Alexander IV expected to remain in their positions.

The fledgling Greek government has applied for membership to the Council of Nations, but has yet to formalize their government. According to the negotiations between Grecorussia and the rebels, a free Greece would require free and fair elections with international monitors. The CN echoed this sentiment when asked about potential negotiations, stating that such free and fair elections would be required to gain membership to the Council, along with the stipulation that Greece would need to be a non-nuclear state before joining. It is not certain if Greece intends to abide by either of these conditions.

The government of Panem has yet to comment on the recent developments, simply stating that the State Department is “watching the events in Greece and Russia closely and will update the public when more information is available.”

Who is Wes Summerfield?

Three days ago, Constantin Richelieu stepped down as Speaker of the Panem House of Representatives following what was likely to be a failure to keep the Liberty-Conservative House coalition together, triggering a contested Speaker election for the first time in ten years. Yesterday, a young three-term representative from District 4 assumed the position of Speaker of the House, becoming Panem’s top-ranking legislator.

However, many are asking: who exactly is Speaker Wes Summerfield?

Wesley Summerfield was born two years after the Panem Revolution ended, making him the first Speaker to be born under the new Republic. Born in District 4 to a family of fisherman and sailors, Summerfield ran his family’s business following his father’s death whenever Summerfield was sixteen. Summerfield had a knack for business and managed to expand the outdoors business that his father previously owned into a chain of outdoors stores throughout District 4.

In the middle of this success Summerfield met Maria Ramirez, a graduate student at the University of the Coast in District 4. Ramirez, then a marine biology doctoral student, began dating Summerfield and married him a year later. The newly-married Maria Summerfield was actually the person who first urged Summerfield to run for Congress after seeing the dilapidation of the towns in District 4’s twelfth congressional district and attributing many of the issues to a Labor representative by the name of Francisco Morales.

Summerfield’s first run for Congress was deemed by pundits to be a lost cause. The town in which Summerfield lived was the only town in the twelfth congressional district to vote for the Liberty candidate in previous elections, and the district was considered overall to be a likely hold for Labor for years to come. However, Morales had always been a poor campaigner and had never faced an opponent that had true firepower or clear name recognition. In the campaign, Summerfield portrayed Morales as a lackadaisical representative who was detached from the needs of the district, never coming home until it was an election cycle. Morales, insisting that Summerfield was not a threat due to his previous landslide victories against Liberty candidates, attacked back at Summerfield, but not in a way that indicated any real effort to keep his seat. Ultimately, voters backed Summerfield over Morales that November, resulting in a victory of 57 percent for Summerfield to 37 percent for Morales, with 6 percent going to other candidates. The twenty point landslide indicated that the district was not so dead-set on the Labor Party as some might believe, and it became one of the biggest moments for the Liberty Party in a midterm that was not particularly favorable to them, providing a gain in a district that was never supposed to go for Liberty.

Speaker Wes Summerfield on his family’s dock at his home in District 4. Summerfield succeeded Constantin Richelieu as Speaker of the Panem House of Representatives after the latter failed to maintain a tenuous coalition between the Liberty and Conservative Parties in the House.

Summerfield then entered Congress, and to Summerfield, that means he went to work. During his first term, Summerfield filed forty different bills, eight of which became law. He established himself as a firebrand, regularly railing against the Canth administration for their tax policies and their foreign policy. For many, Summerfield was a breath of fresh air. To the leadership of the House, Summerfield represented a problem. Leaders like Miranda O’Neal and Constantin Richelieu viewed Summerfield as risk-averse and prone to starting arguments when the leadership was looking for compromise. Summerfield never publicly spoke against the leadership in the House, but his feelings were well-known in the Capitol about how he believed Richelieu to be a poor fit for the Speakership.

Summerfield’s victory also ushered in a movement towards the Liberty Party in District 4’s twelfth congressional district. Voters, who had been disgruntled for years towards their municipal governments, began to vote out their Labor officeholders in favor of Liberty ones after the success that Summerfield had in Congress. Summerfield was swept back into office two years after his first victory by a massive forty-point margin over his Labor opponent, and ran unopposed for the next two terms.

Wes Summerfield’s victory as speaker is certainly representative of his meteoric rise in politics; at the age of thirty, Summerfield also holds the distinction of being the youngest House Speaker in Panem’s history. His time as Speaker begins with a success, much like his initial foray into politics; Summerfield managed to ensure the integrity of the Liberty-Conservative coalition that was set to collapse under Richelieu, resulting in a working majority for the Liberty agenda in Congress. Following that success, it appears that Summerfield will be working to achieve many more victories, most particularly those on President Peeta Mellark’s second-term agenda.