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Ethics "Light"
Wednesday, 16 January 2013

January 16--  The Georgia legislature convened this week and the state Senate wasted no time passing a resolution concerning ethics rules for its members and issued a press release calling it a bold move.  It sets a $100 cap on lobbyists' gifts to senators, however. it immediately drew fire. 

The senate rule is voluntary, does not limit the number of gifts, does not include junkets for lawmakers and only a senator can bring a complaint against another senator plus complaints are sealed from public disclosure.

State Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons told us before the session he favors tough ethics legislation and thinks it should also cover campaing contributions.

"It's the amount of contributions that needs to be addressed, not just taking somebody out to dinner.  If we're going to address it, we ought to get at it and I'll support a very tough ethics law," he said.

The senate rule has no force of law, however, in the House, Speaker David Ralston wants ethics legislation and a total prohibition on gilfs from lobbyists to lawmakers.

"I think this is what happens when you play around with gimmicks and you're more interested in having publicity stunts than doing real reform.  Our bill will have a prohibition on spending on individual members of the General Assembly by registered lobbyists, period." Ralson promises.

Unlike Speaker Ralston, State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia thinks there should be some leeway on lobbyists dealing with legislators as long as what they spend is made public.

"The public is concerned about it at the very least and trust between the people and those they elect is important.  I think the main thing is transparency, having the ability to see every dime that I've taken in meals or going to ballgames and make the judgement for themselves whether I'm doing right and then communicate that with me," Morris says.


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