A few months ago, if you asked me about the likelihood of ethics reform moving forward in the General Assembly I would have given you a snarky, cynical response. Ask me again now, and I’ll sing you a different tune.
It’s only been a couple months since our comprehensive ethics bills died in the General Assembly, but several strides have recently been made towards reforming our defunct ethics regulations.
It’s likely that the recent interest in ethics reform has to do with the publication of the State Integrity Investigation, in which Georgia was ranked the state with the greatest potential for corruption. Perhaps this revelation helped our elected officials realize that our current ethics laws just aren’t up to snuff with the rest of the country. Maybe they finally got tired of being one of only three states with no limit on lobbyist gifts. I’d like to think that it was all the pressure the CCGA, the Tea Party, and voters have been putting on our legislators that convinced them that this is what’s in the best interest for Georgians. Whatever it was, this week was a great week for ethics advocates across the state.
One of the most significant developments has to do with our Lobbyist Gift Limit Campaign Pledge. So far, we’ve had over thirty candidates take our lobbyist gift limit pledge and more are signing up each day! Those signing include Senate Minority Leader, Steve Henson (D-Tucker) and Senate President Pro Tempore, TommieWilliams (R-Lyons). Both gentlemen signed the pledge yesterday, during candidate qualifying. Fourteen other candidates took the pledge during the past two days after they finished qualifying. All sixteen new signers joined the seventeen early-adopters, the first being Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus).
In case you don’t get why this is such a big deal, I’ll spell it out for you: we finally have support from General Assembly leadership! Part of what made it so difficult for our legislation last session, is that the House leadership was vehemently opposed. With those in power backing our efforts, the chances for lobbyist law reform to get passed are much greater. As CCGA Executive Director William Perry stated in a press release, “With the tide beginning to turn in favor of meaningful reform, I hope House Speaker David Ralston and other legislative leaders will see the error of their ways and stop blocking comprehensive ethics reform.”
The second major development took place earlier this week,at the Georgia Republican Convention. The executive committee voted to put a question about lobbyist gift limits on the Republican primary ballot. “The ballot question, which does not have the force of law, asks if the state should end “unlimited spending” by enacting a $100 cap,” reported the AJC.
Support from leadership and irrefutable evidence from Republican voters, should provide enough leverage to convince legislators that lobbyist law reform needs to happen next session. It certainly seems like all our efforts are finally starting to win over our elected officials. As citizens, we need to make sure that we keep this momentum moving forward.
If your preferred candidate hasn’t yet signed the gift cap pledge, print out a copy and mail it in with your campaign contribution. The next time you have a candidate come knocking at your door, hand them a pledge form when they ask for your vote. More names are being added to the board each day, and we hope to have filled up several by the time November rolls around.
You can also raise your voice this July during the primaries. Those selecting the Republican ballot can be sure to vote in favor of lobbyist gift caps. If you’re a Democrat, make sure you petition the party to add a similar question to their primary ballots.
The strides taken this week just go to show that when one door closes another one opens. We may not have comprehensive ethics reform just yet, but we are closer than ever. The lobbyist gift cap is one major change we can make to ensure that the next time the Center for Public Integrity conducts an integrity investigation, Georgia comes out on top.