For years the Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform has been emphasizing how ethics reform isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue, but a right or wrong issue. Well it seems like the legislators under the Gold Dome don’t quite agree. Now that it’s clear that the public is overwhelmingly behind ethics reform, particularly lobbyists’ gift caps, it seems like everyone wants to throw their hat into the ethics reform ring.
It’s turning into a free for all, that’s not only pitted Republican’s against Democrats, but the House against the Senate. Everyone wants to take the credit for crafting the “best” ethics reform bill, and everyone is trying their hand at it. Within the first two days of the session there were already several ethics bills in the Senate, and the House is likely to follow along with their own legislation shortly. For evidence of this look no further than when the Senate included a $100 gift cap in their rules. Instead of focusing on the fact that the Senate was moving in the right direction, everyone focused on the negatives. The House Speaker called it a “gimick”, and the Democratic Senators criticized it for being too lax.
Another problem with the competition is that now we’ve got all these reform bills that are working at cross purposes. Instead of working together like the Alliance has been doing, our Legislators are trying to one-up each other and show that their chamber/party is more ethical than the other. Hence why there’s now a Senate Democratic lobbyist gift cap bill,a Senate Republican gift cap bill, and there will be the Alliance gift cap bill at some point in the future. It’s great that everyone is so excited about ethics reform, but all this bickering isn’t going to accomplish anything. Choices are great, but not when they lead to paralysis. With each new bill that gets dropped, the public and legislator become further divided on the issue and the likelihood that a consensus can be formed and a a bill actually get passed are less and less likely. This all inevitability forces us to turn our attention away from the main priority: getting Georgia’s ethical standards up to snuff with the rest of the country.
Legislators need to stop trying to increase their approval ratings by jumping on the ethics bandwagon, and stop using every solution offered as an opportunity to bash their “opponents”. It’s time they start acting like the leaders who were elected in November. If there is any hope for the Georgia legislature to gain back the trust of the people, they are going to have to suck it up, work together, and enact laws that make them worthy of the people who put them under the Gold Dome. We need ethics reform and it can’t be about looking good, it must be about being good.