Day 23: Ethics Bill clear the House. Still would allow trips, does not have limits for lobbyist expenditures, and proposes that everybody at the capitol has to be a registered lobbyist.
Monday 02/25/2013. Twenty-Third day of the Georgia Legislative Session. Among the most relevant thing today was the vote in the floor of the House of HB142 and HB143, the attempts of ethics reform in the House by Speaker David Ralston(R-Blue Ridge). So after much discussion and amendments in committee, both bills passed with overwhelming majority vote. HB142 is the more controversial,as it is the one that refers to the lobbyist registration and lobbyist gifts to legislators. HB143 is referred to the disclosure reports and campaign donations.
After the long campaign by organizations such as Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform, the proposal of speaker Ralston does not included any limit gifts like we saw in the rules of the Senate introduced at the beginning of the session, it still would allow trips as the one that ignited all this campaign (although lobbyists cannot pay for the fly tickets), legislators still can receive game tickets for the Georgia University System sponsored games (UGA, GATech, etc.) and now also requires that anybody that wants to talk with Legislators to support or oppose legislation at the Capitol or Coverdell Legislative Office Building (office building next to the Capitol that holds most of the offices of the legislators) has to be a registered lobbyist ($25 annual register fee).
After all the controversy and secrecy that covered this attempt of reform (the online versions of the bill were not close to the one being worked in the subcommittee/committee, advocate groups were not consulted for suggestions regarding the proposal, but even avoided to talk about it) one cannot help but wonder what is the reform this bill is really supporting, and whether is only a save face for the scandals we have witnessed this past year regarding lobbyist gifts.
HB142 and HB143 now go to first readers on the Senate where it will be referred to a committee.