Ralston lays out ethics plan

A late-morning presser saw House Speaker David Ralston layout details surrounding ethics reform legislation promised after Georgians overwhelmingly voiced support a cap on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers in both the Democratic and Republican primaries last July.

The move followed hints yesterday that the speaker’s proposal would drop at some point this week, and news early this morning confirmed speculation it would be today.

As expected, it’s centerpiece is a “total ban on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers.”

The prohibition applies to individual gifts given not solely to state lawmakers, but to every public official in the state, whilst allowing exceptions “offered to the entire General Assembly or individual chambers, caucuses or committees,” per the AJC’s report of the press conference.

Full text of the bill is set to become available for public consumption this afternoon.

In another not-to-subtle barb at the ethics reforms adopted into the rules of the state Senate, Ralston told the press it went farther than “gimmicks cloaked as reform.”

Changes within the Senate’s rules, which cap gifts from lobbyists at $100, are likely to be introduced as a separate piece of legislation.

Post-press conference, House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams said “important questions” remained, but the AJC noted that, overall, she “had no major complaints.”

Though he initially opposed changes to the current system, Ralston came out in favor of a full ban on gifts following last July’s vote.

“I have always said while I believe the current system is a good system because it does provide information and it’s open and transparent that if we didn’t have that system then a prohibition would be better than a cap, and I haven’t changed my mind,” he told the AJC shortly after last summer’s vote.

When asked about smattering of rumors that he was eyeing a bid for retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss’s seat, the speaker asked Channel 2’s Lori Geary: “Why would I want the demotion?”

Thus, that field has winnowed further.

-Brandon Howell

January 29, 2013
November 30, 2012