Time for statesmanship, not showmanship

Ditch Southern politeness for just a moment.

That done, we offer this advice to the Georgia General Assembly: Don’t screw this up. Meaning that the legislature must pass substantial ethics reform legislation — this year.

There are many in the state legislature who seem legitimately to want to heed the people’s wish and tighten restrictions on lobbyist spending. That admirable intent should not be waylaid, hijacked or sidetracked this year.

This is not a cause that should be fumbled in 2013 and taken up again next January.

That shouldn’t be an option. When the session’s gaveled to a close Thursday, ethics reform needs to be among the substantive pieces of legislation passed in a year with relatively few hot-button issues that should have distracted lawmakers.

Lawmakers must heed the will of voters who’re dismayed if not disgusted by the anything-goes-as-long-as-you-‘fess-up atmosphere that is the current way of the Gold Dome.

Simply adopting a more-ethical way of doing business should not be so difficult. Not in a year when ethics reform was allegedly high on the agenda from Day 1.

The Georgia Senate slapped in place on its first day an ethics rule with a $100 gift cap — and notable instances where the limit did not apply. Across the building, House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, followed through on his notable change of opinion regarding ethics practices and introduced a bill banning lobbyist gifts — again, with not-insignificant exceptions.

Ralston’s House passed its version of ethics legislation Feb. 25 — leaving the Senate ample time to quickly take up the matter and begin the give-and-take that normally marks passage of much legislation. Yet it took the Senate until Friday — 26 calendar days — to take a full vote on the matter. That lengthy delay is unconscionable and may have damaged beyond repair the cause of passing ethics reform this year.

Flip the calendar ahead a month. With three days remaining in the session, why are we this far from the goal? As in beginning the final week at legislative loggerheads as the House and Senate dig into entrenched positions on the merit of a gift “ban” versus a gift “cap.” In the end, the argument will be about a distinction without a real difference. That’s because no knowledgeable observer expects lobbyist spending to drop anywhere near zero, even after reforms take effect. There’s not a chance of that happening, given the loopholes that will inevitably be part of any new law.

The best we can hope for are significant curbs in the current practices, backed by rigorous disclosure and a state ethics body with adequate resources to ensure compliance. That would be a worthwhile and significant improvement.

That said, Ralston’s concept of ethics reform — a ban, in most instances — seems the more-workable and easily understandable path to achieve the widely desired result. As we’ve said before, Ralston, who absorbed considerable heat for accepting a lobbyist-paid $17,000 trip to Europe in 2010, showed political courage and wisdom in later coming around to push for a near-total ban.

Yet, the Senate’s proposal builds on the $100 cap. Its revision of the House’s work was passed on Friday.

That pushes matters into this week, when a conference committee is likely to be called to order to try and reconcile the dispute. The danger is that the House and Senate could battle to a draw in the name of safeguarding differing, strongly held principles. That would lead to a throwing-up of hands and saying in unison, “Maybe next year.”

Uh-uh. Not good enough. Not when 71.3 percent of respondents in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll last December indicated legislators should “accept no gifts” from lobbyists. That’s consistent with results from last July’s election, when 82 percent of those voting favored ethics reform placed on the ballot in the form of a non-binding advisory question.

Lawmakers should review those results as they weigh whether compromising on an absolute “ban” or a “cap” will play well with voters in the next election cycle. Georgia will be better off if they instead concentrate on doing the right thing.

That will take real statesmanship and wisdom from our General Assembly this week. It’s up to them to make ethics reform happen this year.

They should know by now that the topic’s not going away.

Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board

13 comments Add your comment

Bernie

March 25th, 2013
10:39 pm

Showmanship is a innate Habit for The CLOWN POSSE who has struck again today with a legislation that sets back the rights of women to a Time period of 50years ago.

The Clown Posse of the Georgia dome are not the REAL MEN they claim to be. For a Real Man would never sneak and hide a decision that he feels so strongly with great convictions about. Only Cowards would do as the CLOWN POSSE did today.

Sneakily, Slip this Nasty virus of a legislation under cover and without notice or debate to demoralize and then pull the chair from under the millions of Women Statewide!

Only COWARDS would do such a thing and then congratulate themselves……

However Women are of a Nobler species. She will sit you down and look into your eyes and tell you…. I AM LEAVING YOU! there will be no doubt in understanding her intentions.

Come the Mid term election she (the women of Georgia) will have that same conversation with the Georgia Republican Party. They will look in horror and shock with eyes of total disbelief. walking away saying what Did I do?

Today is a day for remembering the acts of COWARDS by The Women of Georgia!

Bernie

March 25th, 2013
2:41 pm

correction:

GB101 @ 6:02 am – These individuals at the DOME like you who called themselves Legislators have shown enough of themselves to me and the wider public arena much to their own embarrassment.
This old Georgia Political Tactic when under pressure, attack and blamethe source. I am not the issue nor problem here. These are YOUR FRIENDS!

Everybody who see and have ears know that YOUR FRIENDS are NOT DOING THEIR JOB! Not the fact that you knowing that information as well, does not bother you at all. take for example recent proposed legislation and all of the DANGER it portends. Yet the Legislation that can do the most and be the most beneficial to the average citizen of Georgia. They are Silent as a CHURCH MOUSE on Peachtree Street on a Sunday MORNING during Early services.

For example Women,Children,Seniors,Disabled, and the Mentally Handicapped. Many whom are without Healthcare Coverage and needed medical Care and treatment. Your FRIENDS are SILENT.
Your FRIENDS do nothing.

Now when just looking at those (2) TWO comparisons. What would be an appropriate Name to call them!

CLOWNS ………….is the name the CHILDREN would SCREAM at the Top of their little Voices, if they HAD a VOICE that could be heard at the Dome.

I would say they are But FOOLISH MEN, who are only FOOLING themselves….

Bernie

March 25th, 2013
12:14 pm

GB101 @ 6:02 am – These individuals at the DOME like you who called themselves Legislators have shown enough of themselves to me and the wider public arena much to their own embarrassment.
This old Georgia Political Tactic when under pressure, attack and blamethe source. I am not the issue nor problem here. These are YOUR FRIENDS!

Everybody who see and have ears know that YOUR FRIENDS are NOT DOING THEIR JOB! Not the fact that you knowing that information as well, does not bother you at all. take for example recent proposed legislation and all of the DANGER it portends. Yet the Legislation that can do the most and be the most beneficial to the average citizen of Georgia. They are Silent as a CHURCH MOUSE on Peachtree Street on a Sunday MORNING during Early services.

For example Women,Children,Seniors,Disabled, and the Mentally Handicapped. Many whom are without Healthcare Coverage and needed medical Care and treatment. Your FRIENDS are SILENT.
Your FRIENDS do nothing.

Now when just looking at those too comparisons. What would be an appropriate Name to call them!
CLOWNS ………….is the name the CHILDREN would SCREAM, if they HAD a VOICE!

I would say they are But FOOLISH MEN, who are only FOOLING themselves….