Atlanta - The House and Senate are gearing up for a fight over ethics reform.
A Senate committee has adopted the bill proposed by House Speaker David Ralston, but not before making some key changes.
The House version included a ban on all gifts with the exception of dinners for large groups of lawmakers and out-of-town trips excluding travel.
Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) says the new version includes $100 gift caps on everything including dinners on a per person basis.
“Let’s say that a lobbyist wants to provide a $120 ticket. Then, they’re going to have to pay the $20,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
Any local or state elected body would have to pass their own rules regarding gifts or else they would be subject to a total ban.
Also under the new version, only paid lobbyists would have to register and the fee would remain at $320. The bill by Ralston required anyone who lobbies on behalf of an organization for more than five days to register although the fee was waived.
“In our hearing, we heard a lot of people say ‘we’re citizens under the Constitution… and we have the right to come and talk to our legislators’ and we respected that,” says Mullis.
The new version of the bill is drawing praise from government watchdog group Common Cause Georgia.
Executive Director William Perry has been pushing for $100 gift caps for lawmakers for years and says Republican voters overwhelmingly supported that in last year’s primary.
“I’m extremely excited about this version of the bill,” he says. “It slams the door on a lot of the loopholes created by the House.”
Perry says the measure would be even better if it included caps on travel for lawmakers. The revised version has no limit on domestic travel, but excludes travel to foreign countries as well as travel for staff and spouses.
The bill is set to go before the full Senate Friday.