For Legislature, all roads lead to ethics reform (and vice versa)

The story of the year in metro Atlanta almost certainly was voters’ rejection of the $7.2 billion transportation sales tax. That’s true not only because the result was so lopsided in a region famous for its traffic congestion and desperate for relief, but because the clear message was that voters torched the T-SPLOST due to a lack of trust in government.

But what does “lack of trust” mean in practice?

Happily, an opinion poll commissioned for, and reported last Sunday by, the AJC translated the public’s lack of trust into numbers. It suggests ethics reform is key if the Legislature is to shore up the trust deficit.

Sixty percent of those polled last month, in the same 10 metro Atlanta counties that voted down the T-SPLOST in July, said they believe “people in the government waste a lot of money we pay in taxes.” The same percentage said “not many” or “hardly any” of the folks in government are honest.

That’s 60 percent who think government wastes money and 60 percent who think people in government tend not to be honest. The “no” vote in the T-SPLOST vote was a remarkably similar 63 percent.

That said, wastefulness and honesty are not equally problematic in the public’s mind.

When asked what would restore their trust in government, about a quarter of poll respondents suggested something along the lines of using existing funds more efficiently or making real progress toward solving transportation problems.

But almost twice as many 49 percent of those polled — said “restore honesty,” “more accountability,” “more transparency,” or “less spending on special interests/connected people.”

Spending more on transportation isn’t going to be an option anytime soon: Gov. Nathan Deal last week warned legislators there will be precious little money in this year’s budget for new initiatives.

More abundant in 2013 will be ethics legislation.

On Wednesday evening, Sens. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, and Steve Henson, D-Tucker, briefed supporters of the Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform about some possible bills in next year’s legislative session. They include, yes, the $100 limit on lobbyists’ gifts to legislators that I and many others have promoted for some time. But others may be even more important.

McKoon has already prefiled two constitutional amendments. One dedicates a set percentage of the general budget to the state ethics commission, so that investigated lawmakers can’t retaliate by cutting the agency’s funding. The other creates such new tools for rooting out corruption as a statewide grand jury, an idea that’s also been kicked around for a few years.

Other bills may address such issues as the “revolving door” through which some state workers pass on their way to working for the companies they used to regulate; the lack of personal financial disclosures for some members of state boards and commissions whose conflicts of interest currently aren’t aired publicly; the lack of a sunshine law for legislative records; and various problems with the filing system for disclosures already required by law.

These reforms might not have obvious ties to transportation policy. Public sentiment is quite clear, though, that a general perception of impropriety among public officials is crimping our government’s ability to perform such basic functions as improving transportation infrastructure.

That’s one more reason ethics reformers need to get a move on.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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66 comments Add your comment

Aynie Sue

December 17th, 2012
6:28 am

For the Georgia Legislature, all roads lead to nowhere. Our elected louts cannot temper their greed , and are incompetent to do anything useful for the state of Georgia, save build a fishpond or two.

Has there ever been a state government as useless as Georgia’s? I cannot think of one thing the state has done to address high unemployment, high crime, inadequate education, inadequate infrastructure, flood control and water management . Can you?

The Georgia electorate persists in electing and reelecting incompetents year after year. Is there any hope that Georgia, particularly the Atlanta metro, will ever regain the growth and prestige enjoyed under Democratic Presidents, Governors and Legislators?

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

December 17th, 2012
6:39 am

Hard to believe Atlanta could have any problems at all, ethical or otherwise. It’s been run by Democrats for just about forever. And yet, its infrastructure is falling apart, its education system is corrupt and sucks, and crime is horrendous. Why don’t they just raise taxes and fix all these problems?

catlady

December 17th, 2012
6:43 am

I trust David Ralston to oversee ethics reform about as much as can throw him, and he is a very big man. The same as far as our governor, or most of our legislators.

It’s like having a fox, possum, hawk, and coyote design the chicken pen for you!

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

December 17th, 2012
6:47 am

Some of the proposed changes make sense–I’m all for more disclosure and transparency. The $100 limit seems like an invitation to gaming the system–either ban gifts completely or have no limit but require full disclosure on the web. And the revolving door problem just seems unenforceable and probably unconstitutional.

Don't Tread

December 17th, 2012
7:38 am

“a general perception of impropriety among public officials is crimping our government’s ability to perform basic functions”

Let me point out that a main contributor of that perception is the steadfast refusal of elected officials to impeach one of their own when necessary, and the one who should be impeached is from their own political party. (They have no problem impeaching the opposition’s members.) The proceedings in SC a couple of years ago are the rare exception.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 17th, 2012
7:44 am

What is the job of a legislature other than squandering away all of our money?

Yes, let’s have them all promise not to do it again.

Or better yet, let’s have obozo pop up on their TV screen unannounced and talk trash about America, there will be lots of them watching Bowl games on New Years Day, that will straighten them out.

carlosgvv

December 17th, 2012
8:20 am

I believe Georgia Legislature ethics reform is what’s known as an oxymoron.

JKL2

December 17th, 2012
8:27 am

obama has proven it’s a tax problem and not a spending problem. I guess the people in GA didn’t get the memo. You evil rich guys need to start paying…

Junior

December 17th, 2012
8:39 am

Aesop,
Just because you weren’t paying attention doesn’t mean it was unannounced. They even told you that CNBC was continuing the game.

boned

December 17th, 2012
8:40 am

I have a question. How is it that one contractor gets all of our road work? They must have a great inside tract at the DOT and with the state government. I’m sure they were upset that they would only get 100’s of millions of our tax dollars in highway work after the vote failed instead of billions. What kind of gifts or tickets or vacations are presented to the GADOT and state government from CWM. I see this company on 99% of these jobs. Is it realy possible that out of our entire country or state, there is one highway contractor capable of bidding these jobs succesfully,I don’t think so. Big bussiness and big government smells very fishy in georgia. As long as I see one contractor getting most all the work,I will continue to vote no for more transportation money.

Thomas Heyward Jr

December 17th, 2012
8:42 am

The premise that politicians will reform their own ethics is ridiculous.
.
The only thing that the citizens can do is to deny the authority and/or funds to the Golddome….every chance they get.
.
And they could also do this————–Bring back Ostracism.
The ancient Greeks have much to teach when it comes to shifty politicians, declining society, Mob/Kleptocracies, and Oligarchs————
.
“Each year the Athenians were asked in the assembly whether they wished to hold an ostracism. The question was put in the sixth of the ten months used for state business under the democracy (January or February in the modern Gregorian Calendar). If they voted “yes”, then an ostracism would be held two months later. In a section of the agora set off and suitably barriered,[2] citizens scratched the name of a citizen they wished to expel on pottery sherds, and deposited them in urns. The presiding officials counted the ostraka submitted and sorted the names into separate piles. The person whose pile contained the most ostraka would be banished, provided that an additional criterion of a quorum was met, about which there are two principal sources:”
.
As a side note…..I would tweek the Ostracizing,
I would limit the candidates to only PAST and Present Lawmakers, and instead of banishment, …..I would suggest a Bankrupting fine…….paid to the State treasury.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

December 17th, 2012
8:42 am

Education is a recession-proof industry that will always be in high demand. The corporate money-changers know if they can get their hands on this industry, “reform” it to replace decently-paid teachers and faculty with McTeachers, and then get taxpayers to foot the bill, quarterly profits and lavish bonuses for CEOs can explode. Even in so-called “non-profit” charter schools, management can make big bucks.

And that’s exactly what Georgia’s Constitutional Amendment 1 accomplishes. Expect similar amendments to pop up in other state elections in the near future.

Why You Can Kiss Public Education (and the Middle Class) Goodbye

http://www.alternet.org/education/why-you-can-kiss-public-education-and-middle-class-goodbye

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 17th, 2012
8:50 am

Junior

December 17th, 2012
8:39 am

Aesop,
Just because you weren’t paying attention doesn’t mean it was unannounced. They even told you that CNBC was continuing the game.

Go to Twitter and marvel at all the other people in the world who have families and friends and don’t study all the graphics on the TV or hang on every word the announcers say and wonder why they didn’t put this crocodile tear shedding socialist pig CNBC instead and leave their freaking game alone for them to enjoy.

Who are you to say anything to me?

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 17th, 2012
8:51 am

pig “on” CNBC instead, pardon

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

December 17th, 2012
8:53 am

If public schools had done their jobs, rather than focusing on their employees gold-plated pay and benefit packages, the charter school discussion would never have begun.

Junior Samples

December 17th, 2012
9:01 am

Aesop,
Thanks for confirming you weren’t paying attention. Maybe if you stopped tweeting you’d have known. Regardless, you cannot say it was unannounced. Period.

Sorry you have such a high regard for anything on Twitter.

independent thinker

December 17th, 2012
9:08 am

KYLE – WHY NOT WRITE ABOUT SOMETHING THAT IS REAL LIKE SANTA CLAUSE?

GB101

December 17th, 2012
9:13 am

Barry: Full disclosure is already the law. You can look up any lobbyist and find out exactly what is being spent on entertaining legislators. Most of it makes for pretty dull reading.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 17th, 2012
9:17 am

Yes, everybody should live their life like junior because junior is……..perfect? junior has no flaws, just ask junior. junior would like very much to impose juniors ideas on everybody else because junior wants to be the world’s savior. all hail junior.

Junior Samples

December 17th, 2012
9:21 am

Aesop,
Your A.D.D. is showing. Take your meds and everything will be alright.
Sorry you feel this is an imposition.

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

December 17th, 2012
9:27 am

GB101: Barry: Full disclosure is already the law.
———————-

Yeah, I thought I remembered that having been done some time ago. I don’t follow this issue closely enough to know what it is about this method that might appear to not be effective. I’m quite sure that if there was anything objectionable found in the disclosures for a Republican, the AJC and Atlanta lamestream media would be all over it, yet we don’t hear much.

Just Saying..

December 17th, 2012
9:28 am

Ethics, huh? Thank God Republicans are in complete control of the governor’s office and both state houses.This should be fixed in no time…

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 17th, 2012
9:38 am

Maybe the Repugs should pass PAYGO legislation, like nasty pelosi did 4 TRILLION DOLLARS ago.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 17th, 2012
9:40 am

Do you approve of my last comment, junior?

Black Label

December 17th, 2012
9:52 am

Aesop

Within the rules set by Kyle and the AJC anyone cane comment on any article or post on this blog.

If you do not like it, too bad for you.

Kyle:

Keep up the work and reporting on this issue. Thanks

Chap123

December 17th, 2012
9:57 am

Kyle ,
why are you silent on connecticut massacre ? who otherwise jumps on any news that matters to conservative.
Over the weekend none of the conservatives showed courage to address the issue or discuss on
sunday talk shows?
Either ways the proponents of anto gun laws are cowards are guilty .

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

December 17th, 2012
10:04 am

Oh god forbid that the commander in chief should interrupt a football game. I mean, they were just kindergarten kids — little people who, if they had been packing heat, would be alive today.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 17th, 2012
10:05 am

Gee, thanks for the update black label. Are you a megalomaniac too?

Bob Loblaw

December 17th, 2012
10:07 am

Kyle, add it up. 30 “public interest groups” supposedly sign onto “Ethics Reform” and they host a huge meeting and provide free transportation and less than 30 people attend, more than half from the news media. This is a media-driven issue. The AJC isn’t able to control the agenda when someone else gets to influence elected officials so you want to limit that interaction. Plain and simple.

When you vote for a State Legislator, do you cast that vote thinking “this guy should represent me, but he’s not trustworthy enough. He could be bought off with a hundred bucks.”

Of course you don’t. So why the level of intensity on a subject that nobody clamors for except folks with a media badge and folks that want to use taxpayer dollars to fund political campaigns?

I bet y’all buy an extra barrel of ink for 1Q 2013 just for these stories.

Black Label

December 17th, 2012
10:08 am

Aesop

Try to have a great day despite your anger, loneliness and pettiness..

Hang in there little buddy.

JamVet

December 17th, 2012
10:09 am

The amount of corruption and cronyism in our state government is completely unacceptable.

From Governor Deal on down. And when it comes to reigning in said improprieties, via ethics reforms, we are the laggards and laughingstock of the nation.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 17th, 2012
10:09 am

Only if obozo interrupted coverage of the gay “pride” parade would McFool understand.

stands for decibels

December 17th, 2012
10:19 am

Kyle, I hope your apparent optimism in these more recent corrective legislative efforts, by McKoon and company, are founded.

retiredds

December 17th, 2012
10:20 am

I think the Republicans own this one (ethics failure). After all they were elected in the year 2000 promising Georgians that things would change under the Gold (plated) Dome. I guess 12 years is just not enough time. What goes around comes around.

stands for decibels

December 17th, 2012
10:22 am

let’s have obozo pop up on their TV screen unannounced and talk trash about America

There really are no words.

Except to say that perhaps for the first time, I feel genuine pity for an online troll. I can’t begin imagine having a life quite that empty, that I would not only feel that my need for TV entertainment trumped the national interest, but would be willing to say so, even under cover of anonymity.

I wept and prayed for the victims yesterday. I guess I’ll try to find some room for compassion for the mental health issues faced by our “Aesop” as well.

/drive-by

Cutty

December 17th, 2012
10:27 am

Strange that Wingfield chooses to write about something that will never happen to start off the week. While ignoring one of the more important stories of the year for three days. Sure he can write about whatever floats his boat, but its still rather odd that hr hasn’t offered any ‘opinion’ on that matter being a dad and all. Difficult weekend for any parent to have to discuss this with their child, but we know this is GA and ethics reform will come about as soon as the Union army marches down Peachtree.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

December 17th, 2012
10:27 am

Ohh, personal attacks so early……

Aesop, why so bitter?

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.....

December 17th, 2012
10:29 am

“For Legislature, all roads lead to ethics reform (and vice versa)”

Roads to Ethics Reform? HA! I’ll believe it when I see it! (…Both the ethics reform AND the roads.)

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 17th, 2012
10:30 am

/drive-by

What a total coward.

Who weeps for those slaughtered EVERY DAY in Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, Baltimore and all the other lib communities?

We can see when you socialist pigs are taking an opportunity to shed some crocodile tears and advance your filthy agenda.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 17th, 2012
10:31 am

Why did you “personally attack” me to begin with, Finn?

Junior Samples

December 17th, 2012
10:33 am

Aesop,
Your approval addition is concerning.
Free yourself.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 17th, 2012
10:37 am

junior, my life mentor – I’m guessing that’s a no?

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

December 17th, 2012
10:42 am

A writer mentioned that the NRA keeps its minions confused by preaching that “gun control” has everything to do with the 2nd amendment and our right to bear arms when, in fact, it doesn’t.

It’s two related but separate issues.

http://www.salon.com/2012/12/15/yes_we_can_have_sane_gun_control/

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

December 17th, 2012
10:44 am

I think Obama now has priority for his 2nd term in office. Immigration reform, gun law reform, drug war reform.

Junior Samples

December 17th, 2012
10:46 am

Aesop,

Take a deep breath. Open a window.
Relax.
Whatever hurt you in the past can’t hurt you now. Only if you let it.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

December 17th, 2012
10:51 am

We need to start profiling white people. Most mass executions like Friday are by white guys.

MarkV

December 17th, 2012
10:52 am

I find little to interest me in Georgia politics, but Kyle’s article calls to mind related, but more general issues.

Let’s start with the “surprising” finding that polls show that people believe that “people in the government waste a lot of money we pay in taxes.” Is there anything new or surprising? Hardly. Are those people right? Of course they are. People in the government would have to be perfect not to waste some of the money that is mostly not their money (some of it is their money, they pay taxes like everybody else). And most people are not perfect, even though some on this blog apparently think they are.

But is that a unique feature of the government? Again, hardly. Don’t many people waste money? But it is THEIR money, one would say. True, but it is still waste, even if we limited that to the money the same people would admit was wasted.

Should we not fight waste in the government? Of course we should fight it. But let’s not act as if the polls showed something new and revealing.

But even that is not the only problem with such polls. How do those people accusing the government of wasting money know it? In most cases from anecdotal evidence, provided by people who do not like a particular project. I am sure there is plenty of actual waste, but let’s not overstate the importance of the polls.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 17th, 2012
10:56 am

We need to start profiling white people. Most mass executions like Friday are by white guys.

Who’s brimming with hate?

The Virginia Tech massacre was a school shooting that took place on April 16, 2007, on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, United States. Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others

The Fort Hood shooting was a shooting that took place on November 5, 2009, at Fort Hood, the most populous U.S. military installation in the world, located just outside Killeen, Texas.[1] In the course of the shooting, a single gunman killed 13 people and wounded 29 others. The sole suspect is Nidal Malik Hasan

I think we got ourselves a verifiable racist here.

Hate anybody else, Finn?

MarkV

December 17th, 2012
10:59 am

There are some people, who barely qualify as human beings. We have at least one such on this blog, who perversely uses the name of a great Greek fabulist.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

December 17th, 2012
11:00 am

It’s not about hate, Aesop.

How many more names you going to call me today? racist, gay….what else you have?