Posts Tagged ‘Rep. Joe Wilkinson’

Ethics bill to come up for House vote Wednesday

In Ethics on April 20, 2010 at 5:44 pm

The state House Rules Committee unanimously approved ethics legislation backed by House Speaker David Ralston Tuesday morning and the full House is set to vote on the package Wednesday.
Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) came to the committee to argue for a series of changes to Georgia’s ethics laws, including:
— Broadening the authority of the state ethics commission.
— Tightening reporting requirements for lobbyists and legislators.
— Increasing fees and fines for lobbyists and legislators who break the law.
— Making it a crime to use state agencies or authority to attack or harass someone.
— Prohibiting sexual harassment.

“It strengthens our ethics laws in every respect,” Ralston said.

The bill passed unanimously, after two amendments offered by Democrats failed. One would have limited lobby gifts and one would have barred executive officials from lobbying for one year after leaving office.
Ralston said he supports having lobbyists report all their gifts so the public can see what is being spent, but he opposes a cap on lobbyist expenditures.

“Trust the people to make those judgments with the information they can get with the click of a mouse,”

he said, referring to lobbyist financial reports which are posted online by the state.
An earlier proposal by Ralston, to ban lobbyists from texting legislators during session or committee meetings, was dropped after the Democrats objected.

The legislation falls short of earlier proposals that would have required legislators to report gifts, trips and meals from lobbyists, and would have capped lobbyist spending. Ralston’s proposal does require lobbyists to more frequently disclose gifts and meals they have provided legislators.

The bill is now moving forward after months of clamor for ethics reform following House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s resignation last fall. Richardson, once one of Georgia’s most powerful politicians, left office after his former wife alleged he had an affair with a lobbyist and had threatened to use state agencies to force his wife to reconcile.

If the legislation passes Wednesday, it will be sent to the Senate for approval. Rep. Joe Wilkinson (R-Sandy Springs), chair of the House Ethics Committee, has been working closely with Ralston on the legislation for months. He said Tuesday that he had a five-hour meeting with Senate leadership and everyone seemed to be in agreement on the bill.

By Cameron McWhirter
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution