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Lofgren Looks to Reduce Travel Paperwork

In an effort to cut down paperwork and improve public accessibility, the House ethics committee will establish a “working group— to examine the chamber’s travel regulations, ethics Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said Wednesday.

“Travel regulations are important, but they are complicated and convoluted,— Lofgren said at a House Administration Committee hearing to review committee budgets for 2010.

As part of broad ethics reforms to Congressional gift and travel rules nearly three years ago, the House effectively banned lobbyist-sponsored junkets with stringent restrictions on privately sponsored trips.

The new rules also resulted in a new travel approval process, requiring Members and staff to individually file forms with the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, commonly known as the ethics panel, prior to travel and a second set of forms with the House Clerk after completing a trip.

“Whole trees have fallen— as a result of the process, Lofgren said. “We’re hoping to streamline that to be more accessible to the public view.—

Details of the working group were not immediately available.

Both Lofgren and ranking member Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) raised the idea of clerical reforms to the travel process in May and again in a report on the committee’s activities in July.

In addition, the ethics panel requested additional funding Wednesday for its 2010 budget to begin technology upgrades related to its travel, training and financial disclosure systems.

Emily Yehle contributed to this report.

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