Ga. House speaker proposes ethics legislation

Ga. House speaker proposes ethics legislation

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House Speaker David Ralston unveiled an ethics reform plan on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. House Speaker David Ralston unveiled an ethics reform plan on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.
ATLANTA -

House Speaker David Ralston said on Tuesday that the state should ban lobbyist spending on elected officials. The Republican leader has introduced legislation at the state Capitol that also expands the definition of a lobbyist.

Ralston said he responded to public calls for reform of ethics rules at the Capitol.
    
"The centerpiece of this package is a complete ban on lobbyist spending on individual members of the General Assembly," said Ralston.

The Speaker said his plans would return more authority to the state ethics commission and would require more people to register as lobbyists.
    
"You're not going to have to wonder what they mean because they are going to be clear. They are going to be understandable, and I think Georgians will understand that this is not a gimmick," said Ralston.

That was the label he earlier gave a new state Senate rule banning gifts of more than $100.

Democratic leader Stacy Abrams said the bill was a good start.
    
"I think the bill takes a very strong first step towards defining who a lobbyist is, closing loopholes, identifying places where we can strengthen our culture of ethics at the Capitol," said

But Abrams said the proposals needed full review.

"The job that we have is to make sure we're reading the legislation carefully. That we offer suggestions where we can," Abrams said.

Watchdog groups said they too wanted to see exactly what the legislation spelled out.

"We are extremely excited about the fact that this issue is finally receiving the due that it needs. But we just got to look and make sure it's being done the right way," said William Perry of Common Cause Georgia.

Georgia is one of only a few states without restrictions for lobbyist spending on legislators.

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