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‘Ethics Express’ rolls against expensive lobbyist gifts

Common Cause seeks legislators' pledge on sponsoring bill

POSTED: July 25, 2012 12:00 a.m.

William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, speaks in downtown Gainesville on Tuesday afternoon during the group's bus tour stop.

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The “Ethics Express” made a stop in Gainesville on Tuesday afternoon, hoping to unload its informational cargo on local voters.

Common Cause Georgia, Georgia Tea Party Patriots and Georgia Conservatives in Action have joined forces and are traveling the state rallying voters to vote “yes” on nonbinding questions regarding spending by lobbyists on gifts to legislators.

On the upcoming primary ballots — both Democratic and Republican — question No. 2 asks if voters would support a cap on lobbyist spending.

“We’ve got to bring an end to legislators getting favor curried to them from lobbyists with unlimited spending, and Georgians can really take a large step in that direction by voting ‘yes’ on question (No.) 2 on ballots,” said William Perry, Common Cause Georgia executive director.

Common Cause and other “Ethics Express” participants would like to see a $100 cap placed on lobbyist gifts.

“The No. 1 priority for elected officials should be the enactment of policies that build the trust of the people that we represent,” said Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, who is traveling with the group. “We must restore trust if we are going to tackle the challenges that face our state.”

McKoon sponsored a bill this legislative session — Senate Bill 391 — that aimed to curb lobbyist spending.
That bill stalled and failed during the 2012 legislative session.

He plans to reintroduce it next year.

“A limit on lobbyist giving is a part of comprehensive ethics reform, not the whole solution,” said McKoon. “But it is the clearest symbol of what is wrong in state government.”

Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, also sponsored that bill earlier this year.

“I did co-sponsor that legislation in the 2012 session and the issue is of a great deal of interest to many Georgians,” said Miller.

Common Cause is also asking state legislators, along with candidates, to sign a pledge stating they will co-sponsor a bill during the 2013 legislative session limiting lobbyist gifts to legislators to $100.

Currently the group has more than 130 signatures, including Lee Hawkins, the unopposed heir to Doug Collins’ seat in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Hawkins did not return messages as of press time Tuesday, but did speak to The Times earlier this year about the pledge.

“I signed this with the thought in mind of limits on gifts and dinners but will be asking further questions related to this issue,” Hawkins told The Times.

He was the only area legislator to sign the pledge.

Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, and Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gainesville, did not return messages as of press time.

“We are well short of incumbent candidates who have signed on, especially in the House of Representatives,” said Perry. “We’re going to keep pushing them even though they’re not on there.”


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