Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Critics claim that Ralston's ethics bills will do more harm than good

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 2:50 PM

Can you believe that we actually passed those 'ethics' reforms!
As we reported yesterday, House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, introduced two new ethics reform bills - one focused on lobbyist gifts and another tackling how local candidates file campaign reports.

Ralston, flanked by other GOP lawmakers at a press conference under the Gold Dome, affirmed that these reforms would help bolster previous ethics laws that many consider weak and filled with loopholes.

But despite the speaker's beliefs that his ethics proposals would help regain the public's trust and instill "confidence in those they elect to govern," not everyone remains convinced about the bills' intents. That includes The Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform, which has denounced both pieces of legislation.

The alliance - which includes Common Cause Georgia, Georgia Conservatives in Action, Georgia Tea Party Patriots, Georgia Watch, and The League of Women Voters of Georgia - pointed out in an email this morning that:

- The "complete ban on lobbyist" gifts has some pretty big loopholes, including many of the same exceptions the Speaker criticized in the Senate's $100 Cap Rule. The ban is not enforced on subcommittees, which can be a committee of one, nor does it apply to trips involving undefined "official duties" of any public officers (which is basically defined as any elected official, from Governor to local school boards).

- The definition of a lobbyist is so broad that it includes anyone "advocating a position or agenda for the purpose of influencing the decision making of any public officer". If any citizen sends an email to a group of friends asking them to contact their Senator about a bill, they would need pay $320 to register as a lobbyist and file reports with the ethics commission during the session every two weeks.

- County and municipal candidates would no longer be required to send their reports to the ethics commission, but would return to filing locally. This would be a good change, however, there is no requirement to make those reports available online, so Georgia's highly touted transparency laws would take a huge step backward.

Other critics have responded that the two bills will actually do more harm than good. Common Cause executive director William Perry calls the reforms a "total bluff," while Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus - who's championed past ethics measures - said that "it should not cost a citizen $320 to advocate for the public interest. To do so is to close the doors of open government in Georgia."

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

Latest in Fresh Loaf

More by Max Blau

Restaurant Review: Bread & Butterfly
Restaurant Review: Bread & Butterfly

Search Events

Search Fresh Loaf

Recent Comments

© 2016 Creative Loafing Atlanta
Powered by Foundation