See the numbers above? The first is the total number of registered lobbyists in the state of Georgia during 2011. The second is the total dollar amount of gifts that the 1,493 registered lobbyists gave to your state legislators in 2011 (at least that was reported).
Excuse my southernese…“You reckon that influenced the way our legislators voted?”
This past legislative session an interesting bill was introduced by Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, and our very own Rep. Tommy Smith, R-Nicholls. The bill would have set a $100.00 limit on lobbyist gifts. Kudos to Smith and McKoon for attempting this ethical measure that failed to gain ground this year. However, it’s amazing to see that since the session this common sense legislation is now catching fire across the state and gaining momentum among other senators and representatives. Notably Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, of Lyons, and Majority Leader Tom Rogers, of Woodstock, are now on board and supporting the measure. It has been reported that some 70 lawmakers and candidates have now signed on in support of the measure.
So who would oppose such legislation? For starters House Speaker David Ralston, of Blue Ridge, who has stated that he believes that as long as gifts are being reported to the public, it’s fine to receive gifts. I guess that’s true of Ralston and his family’s $17,000.00 European trip to view high-speed rail in action. The trip was paid for by a lobbying firm working for a company interested in constructing high-speed rail in Georgia. He called it a “working trip”. (That 2010 $17,000.00 family vacation will not influence his decisions in the least…or will it?)
Let’s not forget lobbying firms. Many (but not all) of the firms are opposed to the legislation because they fear that they will not be able to buy votes. One lobby organization that is not opposed to the legislation is Common Cause Georgia. Common Cause Georgia is listing the names of the supporters of the legislation on its website, www.commoncause.org, and will soon start listing the names of the legislators opposed or who have not pledged support of the measure.
Voters will also soon get to have a voice on this matter as well. State Republican and Democratic parties have agreed to put a non-binding question on the July 31 primary ballot.
Thanks to Rep. Smith for introducing this ethical legislation. Thanks to Senator Williams for pledging his support to this important legislation.