The House overwhelmingly approves sweeping changes to Georgia's ethics laws.
The measure by House Speaker David Ralston would bar lobbyists from giving gifts to state or local elected officials.
“No individual or small groups going out to dinner on a lobbyist’s dime, no tickets to sporting events or concerts, no golf paid for by lobbyists, and yes, no airplane tickets,” Ralston said during his speech in the well of the House.
Exceptions to the ban include out of town trips, but not travel, and dinners for large groups of lawmakers.
Ralston along with other House members say the changes were not prompted by any wrongdoing, only a public perception of such.
“There’s not a one person in this body that I think is unethical,” Rep. Chuck Sims (R-Ambrose) told his fellow House members. “I want to tell you you’re not.”
But critics still say the bill does not go far enough. William Perry, with watchdog group Common Cause, complains there’s no limit on the exceptions to the gift ban.
“They can sugarcoat it all they want, but gifts to legislators are still unlimited when they’re coming from lobbyists,” he says.
Caps on those gifts could be added when the measure goes over the Senate which has adopted its own internal rule of a $100 gift limit.
“I believe that we would be much better served by having a cap... and limit the exceptions,” says Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus).
Also under the bill, more people would have to register as lobbyists but no longer have to pay a fee to do so. And it restores the power to the State Ethics Commission to adopt regulations.