dottie*File Under What New Fresh Hell is This!

I think the name of this bill should be Sen. Bill Heath is a big old crybaby… someone call the Whaaaambulance on the double.

Read it and weep folks read it and weep.

Bolding is mine, because that part offends me on so many levels.

Democrats, we will be watching to see who supports this, you won’t get a pass. This is NOT a case of harming the good to ensure the perfect. This is bad bongo’s all around.  HB142 and HB 143 are the bill numbers.

As of this morning the bill has been assigned to Rules and a special sub-committee of Rules will meet tomorrow at 1:30 in room 506 of CLOB. If you can, please show up tomorrow, Thursday January 31st at 1:30 pm! Make your voice heard.

House Speaker Shows Cards on Ethics: It’s a Bluff!

Ethics Alliance reacts to “ethics bills” introduced by House leadership

Atlanta, Georgia, January 29, 2013 – House Speaker David Ralston introduced two ethics bills today that will do very little to improve Georgia’s worst in the nation ranking on ethics laws, and in fact, will make things worse.  One of the bills even has provisions that would

require every citizen in the State of Georgia to register as a lobbyist if they advocate for the passage or defeat of a bill at the state or local level to anyone other than their elected government representatives.

 

“The Speaker and House Leadership showed us their cards today and it turns out all this talk about a ‘complete gift ban’ and other ethics reform was a total bluff,” said William Perry, Executive Director of Common Cause Georgia, one of the organizers of the Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform.

 

The Speaker’s well-spun talking points on the bills can be viewed here, and one bill about gifts and lobbyist registration here and one about local candidates filing campaign reportshere.

 

While the Alliance has not had the time to thoroughly examine the bills, here are some big problems that immediately jump out:

 

– The “complete ban on lobbyist” gifts has some pretty big loopholes, including many of the same exceptions the Speaker criticized in the Senate’s $100 Cap Rule.  The ban is not enforced on subcommittees, which can be a committee of one, nor does it apply to trips involving undefined “official duties” of any public officers (which is basically defined as any elected official, from Governor to local school boards).

 

– The definition of a lobbyist is so broad that it includes anyone “advocating a position or agenda for the purpose of influencing the decision making of any public officer”.  If any citizen sends an email to a group of friends asking them to contact their Senator about a bill, they would need pay $320 to register as a lobbyist and file reports with the ethics commission during the session every two weeks.

– County and municipal candidates would no longer be required to send their reports to the ethics commission, but would return to filing locally.  This would be a good change, however, there is no requirement to make those reports available online, so Georgia’s highly touted transparency laws would take a huge step backward.

 

It should also be noted that the announcement of the House bill that is suppose to improve ethics and transparency in the state was held before the media in the House anteroom where the public is not allowed.

Here is reaction from ethics advocate Senator Josh McKoon, as well as other members of the Alliance:

 

Senator Josh McKoon said, “This bill imposes a First Amendment Tax on our fundamental freedom of speech and to petition our government.  It should not cost a citizen $320 to advocate for the public interest.  To do so is to close the doors of open government in Georgia.”
League of Women Voters of Georgia President Elizabeth Poythress said, “If the intent of this legislation is to expand the definition of a lobbyist to incorporate any private citizen wishing to express his or her point of view, then it is an unconscionable imposition on the right of free speech and adverse to our foundation of democracy.”
Atlanta Tea Party Chairman Julianne Thompson stated, “It was one week ago at the State of the State, that Governor Deal thoughtfully tasked the legislature with passing ethics reform to build public trust, not shut the doors to the public. With this provision to impose a $300 fee on volunteer activists who wish to petition their government on issues dear to their heart, this legislation is a slap in the face to citizens and amounts to a First Amendment tax.”
Georgia Tea Party Patriots State Coordinator Debbie Dooley added, “This provision has outraged activists on the right and on the left. This would even prevent pastors of Churches from going to the Gold Dome and exercising their First Amendment rights to speak for their Congregation to the legislature on behalf of life and other moral issues. This would even prevent teachers from talking to legislators on education issues before the body if they cannot afford to pay a fee to speak to those who govern us.”

GA Conservatives in Action Founder Kay Godwin stated, “I have been coming to the Capitol for 24 years on my own dime. I sleep on blow-up mattresses, eat off a card table, and share meals so I can afford to be here as an unpaid activist that cares about good government. I have also volunteered on the campaigns of countless public officials, and this legislation and those who brought it break my heart. They have forgotten that they work for us and since when does the employee charge a fee to the employer to speak to each other.”

 

The Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform includes Common Cause GeorgiaGeorgia Conservatives in ActionGeorgia Tea Party Patriots, the League of Women Voters of Georgia and Georgia Watch.

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest, and accountable government that works for the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard. Common Cause Georgia is the state organization for the national association.
# # #

 

Media Advisory

January 29, 2013

 

Contact:

Common Cause Georgia, William Perry, wperry@commoncause.org – 678-358-6966

Georgia Conservatives in Action, Kay Godwin,  kg60@atc.cc – 912-282-2524

 

Georgia Tea Party Patriots, Julianne Thompson, jthompsongop@yahoo.com – 404-798-4663or Debbie Dooley, debbie0040@yahoo.com – 404-625-4986

 

Georgia Watch, Elena Parent, eparent@georgiawatch.org – 404-525-1085

League of Women Voters of Georgia, Kelli Persons, kelli@lwvga.org – 404-522-4598

 

One Response to FUWNFHIT*

  1. Anita Moorecock says:

    FYI – the Tea Party’s take:

    ———- Forwarded message ———-

    Sen. Josh McKoon analyzed the ramifications of the expanded lobbyist definitions in the Ralston Ethics Bill (HB 142)introduced in the House yesterday.

    The bill has been assigned to Rules and a special sub-committee of Rules will meet tomorrow at 1:30 in room 606 of Coverdale Legislative Office Building 18 Capitol Square SW Atlanta, GA 30334. If you can make the hearing, please let me know.

    The definition of lobbyist in this bill will have ramifications for all of us. Sen. Josh McKoon analyzed the lobbyist portion and this is what he found:

    The circumstances below would require people to pay the $ 320 lobbyist registration fee and register as lobbyists and it does not just effect going to the Capitol and legislators. It extends to the local level.:

    A citizen who comes to the Capitol to speak to a Senator or Representative that they are not an elector for;

    A citizen who e-mails or otherwise contacts a Senator or Representative that they are not an elector for;

    A citizen who urges fellow citizens to contact Senators or Representatives on an issue if that request is not limited to Senators or Representatives that citizen is allowed to vote for;

    A citizen who appears before a City Council, County Commission or Board of Education if they do not vote for every member of such a body;

    A citizen who is not specifically invited to speak to a Committee of the General Assembly but signs up to offer their views;

    A citizen who appears at a rally and generally advocates for or against an issue;

    A citizen who establishes a Facebook page or other social media presence in favor or opposed to a given issue;

    A citizen who writes a letter to the editor to their local newspaper on a given issue.

    Every member of every editorial board in the state;

    Every member of any group coming to the Capitol to influence legislation beyond the local delegation (ie: a realtor from Savannah stopped me yesterday to discuss legislation. That would be outlawed under this bill).

    Just to sum up this covers any action taken that could be “influencing the decision making of a public officer”. So not limited to advocacy on a bill. Not limited to members of the General Assembly.

    On Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 12:06 PM, Richard Gruetter wrote:
    The following is offered in response to the proposed limitations on citizen lobbyists by Speaker David Ralston.

    Article I of the Georgia Constitution
    Section I Rights of Persons
    Paragraph V. Freedom of speech and of the press guaranteed. No law shall be passed to curtail or restrain the freedom of speech or of the press. Every person may speak, write, and publish sentiments on all subjects but shall be responsible for the abuse of that liberty.
    (Taxing the God given right to free speech is unconstitutional as the power to tax is the power to destroy. The Georgia General Assembly is elected by and serves We the People. We have not given them the power to curtail our free speech in response to political decisions that should be made by the General Assembly in support of the citizens of our state.)

    Paragraph VII. Citizens, protection of. All citizens of the United States, resident in this state, are hereby declared citizens of this state; and it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to enact such laws as will protect them in the full enjoyment of the rights, privileges, and immunities due to such citizenship.
    (It is the duty of General Assembly to enact laws that protect our God given rights – they have no authority to curtail our rights.)

    Paragraph IX. Right to assemble and petition. The people have the right to assemble peaceably for their common good and to apply by petition or remonstrance to those vested with the powers of government for redress of grievances.
    (re·mon·strance n

    1. a forceful argument in favor or against something, or the act of making such an argument

    2. a formal protest, usually in the form of a document or petition

    Our General Assembly appears to be trying to limit our remonstrance to those political decisions which may well be in opposition to the citizens rights and pursuit of happiness.)

    Paragraph XXVIII. Enumeration of rights not denial of others. The enumeration of rights herein contained as a part of this Constitution shall not be construed to deny to the people any inherent rights which they may have hitherto enjoyed.
    Speaker David Ralston should spend more time reading and understanding the limits that We the People of Georgia have placed on the General Assembly through our Georgia Constitution and less time attempting to gain political power at the expense of the peoples God given rights.
    Speaker David Ralston would be well served by reviewing our constitution’s Preamble: “To perpetuate the principles of free government, insure justice to all, preserve peace, promote the interest and happiness of the citizen and of the family, and transmit to posterity the enjoyment of liberty, we the people of Georgia, relying upon the protection and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish this Constitution.”

    Richard Gruetter, Founder of Preserve Our Constitution, Inc.

    On Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 8:45 AM, Debbie Dooley wrote:
    Todd Rehm gave a good explanation of what the lobbyist portion of the new ethics bill does.


    Ethics – File Under “Be careful what you ask for”
    Speaker David Ralston held a press conference to present HB 142, the House Leadership Lobbying Reform bill, so-signed by State Reps. Larry O’Neal, Calvin Smyre, Jan Jones, Ed Lindsey and others.
    Here’s the part you’re likely to hear the most about in coming days, the definition of who is required to register as a lobbyist and pay a registration fee:
    (5) ‘Lobbyist’ means, subject to the qualifications at the end of this paragraph:
    (A) Any natural person who receives compensation or provides services pro bono publico for advocating a position or agenda for the purpose of influencing the decision making of a public officer and who is neither subject to nor expressly exempted by any other provision of this paragraph;
    [Note: in legislative drafting, underlined text will be added to the Georgia Code if the measure passes; language that is not underlined is already in the code; words stricken through will be removed from the Code.]
    Under existing law, ‘lobbying’ is defined circularly as “lobbying means the activity of a lobbyist while acting in that capacity” and “[subject to a couple exceptions] no person shall engage in lobbying as defined by this article unless such person is registered with the [Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance] Commission.”
    Among the exceptions,
    (i) The registration provisions of this Code section shall not apply to:
    (1) Any individual who expresses personal views, on that individual’s own behalf, to any public officer other than a public officer who is elected state wide by the voters;
    (1.1) A natural person providing services pro bono publico in an attempt to influence the decision of a public officer elected by the people if such natural person resides in the district or territory from which such public officer is elected;
    (2) Any person who appears before a public agency or governmental entity committee or hearing, including but not limited to a committee of the General Assembly, for the purpose of giving testimony but only when such person is not otherwise required to comply with the registration provisions of this Code section appears at the specific request of the governmental entity and clearly identifies himself or herself and the interested party on whose behalf he or she is testifying;
    Here’s my question: how does that not prevent the following from being required to register?
    (a) the ladies of the Georgia Garden Clubs if the organizations adopt a position against clear-cutting of trees;
    (b) some dude in the basement of his mother’s house with a website in which he calls himself a Tea Party and comments on which bills legislators should pass or oppose;
    (c) the Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial board when it writes in support or opposition to legislation;
    (d) a local Republican Party that has a legislator speak to members and adopts a position opposing tax increases.
    Tea Party activists were quick with criticism, issuing a press release:
    Atlanta Tea Party and other grassroots activist leaders reacted today to a new State House ethics bill which expands the definition of a lobbyist to include unpaid volunteers who advocate for issues and force them to register and pay a $300 fee.
    Atlanta Tea Party Chairman Julianne Thompson stated, “It was one week ago at the State of the State, that Governor Deal thoughtfully tasked the legislature with passing ethics reform to build public trust, not shut the doors to the public. With this provision to impose a $300 fee on volunteer activists who wish to petition their government on issues dear to their heart, this legislation is a slap in the face to citizens and amounts to a First Amendment tax.”
    Georgia Tea Party Patriots State Coordinator Debbie Dooley added, “This provision has outraged activists on the right and on the left. This would even prevent pastors of Churches from going to the Gold Dome and exercising their First Amendment rights to speak for their Congregation to the legislature on behalf of life and other moral issues. This would even prevent teachers from talking to legislators on education issues before the body if they cannot afford to pay a fee to speak to those who govern us.”
    GA Conservatives in Action Founder Kay Godwin stated, “I have been coming to the Capitol for 24 years on my own dime. I sleep on blow-up mattresses, eat off a card table, and share meals so I can afford to be here as an unpaid activist that cares about good government. I have also volunteered on the campaigns of countless public officials, and this legislation and those who brought it break my heart. They have forgotten that they work for us and since when does the employee charge a fee to the employer to speak to each other.”
    Thompson continued “The poison pill in this ethics package kills two birds with one stone: First, it is an attempt to silence activists, who are unpaid, and cannot afford to pay a fee to speak to government officials.
    Secondly, they know the outrage by activists will force this ethics bill to die and they will claim they tried to enact reform, but it is all smoke and mirrors. With this assault on the First Amendment, the sponsors and co-signers of this bill will have dug a bigger divide of mistrust between them and the voters, and this is a poison pill we will not swallow.
    We strongly believe this bill would be rejected by Governor Deal and the Senate, and we call on committed conservatives in the State House to reject this bill and offer real ethics legislation that helps build trust through governing themselves, instead of punishing their constituents.”
    Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) was more circumspect in his analysis:
    Sen. Joshua McKoon, R-Columbus, who has pushed for setting limits on lobbyist expenditures, said Ralston’s bill was a good sign since the General Assembly is moving toward setting some rules on lobbyist spending.
    Still, McKoon said the proposal contained spending loopholes and would represent an unconstitutional restriction of free speech.
    McKoon said he was considering whether to introduce Senate legislation that would address those concerns.
    “The effect of this would be to severely chill citizen activism to the point that you would essentially be evicting those from the Capitol who don’t have $300 to petition their government and have their voices heard,” he said.
    Debbie Dooley
    Board of Directors
    Tea Party Patriots
    Co-Organizer and Co-Founder
    Atlanta Tea Party
    Phone: 678-761-6725
    http://www.teapartypatriots.org/