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Galloway Reports on Senate Ethics Proposal
Monday, 14 January 2013

January 14--  Political Insider Jim Galloway reports on State Senate ethics proposals.

"We’ve got a copy of the new Senate rules about to be approved by the chamber. Click here for your copy.

From a quick reading:

– The same rules that put a $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers include a large loophole for travel, and also bar private citizens from lodging complaints against senators. You’ll recall that the recent complaint against Senate Rules Chairman Don Balfour was filed by a junior majoring in political science at Georgia Gwinnett College, who compared Balfour’s mileage claims and found lobbyists reported buying Balfour meals on the same dates in August in New Orleans and San Antonio.

Complaints could only be brought by “a Senator or Senate staff, aides, or interns.” The rules also seal off any such complaints from public disclosure.

Here are the exceptions to the $100 gift cap contained in the rules:

– Awards, plaques, mementos “in recognition of the recipient’s civic, charitable, political, professional, or public service;

– “Food, beverages, or event registration or admission made available to all members of the General Assembly, the Senate, or any caucus, committee, or subcommittee of such bodies.” Call it the “Wild Hog clause.”

– Expenses for “admission, registration, food, beverages, travel, and lodging attributed to participating in events, seminars, or educational programs sponsored by or in conjunction with a civic, charitable, governmental, educational, professional, community, or business organization or institution where attendance is related to the Senator’s official duties.” So junkets – er, informational searches – would still be allowed.

– “Promotional items generally distributed to the general public or to public officers”;

– “Unsolicited items temporarily loaned to the Senator for the purpose of testing, evaluation, or review, if the Senator has no personal beneficial interest in the eventual acquisition of the item loaned;”

– “Informational material, publications, memberships, or subscriptions related to the Senator’s staff, aides performance of his or her official duties.” Free magazine subscriptions for everybody.

According to these same rules, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle would wield the balance of power in the Senate via a newly constituted committee on assignments composed of the lieutenant governor, the Senate president pro tem, the majority leader, and two senators designated by the lieutenant governor.

Other items worth noting:

– Tthe new rules appear to limit the ability of the lieutenant governor to pick and choose who can wield the gavel over the chamber in his stead. The new rules state that he can only give that duty to the president pro tem.

– The rules also establish a new committee and, thus, a new chairmanship: The Senate Judiciary, Non-Civil, Committee.

– Points of personal priviledge – those short speeches made by senators on topics of their own choice – have been moved back to the top of the daily calendar. The previous Senate administration had positioned them at the bottom, amid grumbling that the move was intended to stifle dissent.

– Maybe it’s new, and maybe it isn’t, but rules for media in the Senate now include this:

Photographers and television camerapersons may NOT film or record the desk or any document or object on the desk of a Senator, unless permission is granted by the member.

Those senators who play solitaire on their laptops now have protection.

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