With House on verge of ethics reform, give Ralston his due

It’s dangerous to heap too much praise on an unfinished product, particularly when there’s still politics to play out. But with a major ethics bill headed for likely passage in the Georgia House of Representatives Monday, it’s worth noting just how much of an unexpected, pleasant turn of events this is.

The bill’s not perfect — show me a bill that is — and it shouldn’t represent the last word ever in Georgia on the topic. It is, however, a bigger step forward than this supporter of ethics reform thought we’d see so soon.

And “soon” is the right word. It was just two years ago, following reports Speaker David Ralston had taken a lobbyist-funded trip to Germany with his family over the previous Thanksgiving, that the latest round of calls for ethics reform got under way.

Nothing came of those calls in that year’s session. As recently as nine months ago, Ralston was casting aspersions on his fellow Republicans who were going along with “media elites and liberal special interest groups” to promote a limit on lobbyist gifts to legislators.

Yet on Monday, House members will consider a bill with Ralston’s name at the top that would prohibit any public official in this state from taking the kind of trip that started this whole crusade. It would curtail much, though not all, of the wining and dining by lobbyists. It cuts out most tickets for football games, concerts and every event in between. It puts some teeth back in the ethics commission’s authority and even improves reporting of campaign contributions made just before the session begins.

For the uninitiated, the Speaker doesn’t sponsor many bills. When he does, they tend to pass the House.

When he introduced the bill late last month, Ralston said he was responding to the will of the people, who on Republican and Democratic primary ballots last summer voted overwhelmingly for gift limits.

I’m sure some people snickered at such a public display of earnestness by a powerful politician. Certainly, I and many others took a trust-but-verify approach.

When the bill appeared to take aim at a number of the very people who’d called for ethics reform, namely tea party activists, a number of reformers said Ralston was acting in bad faith. It didn’t look good, but a few of us advised them to let the legislative process play out.

And the process has done what it’s supposed to do. It’s improved the bill in many ways. Ralston showed flexibility on the definition of “lobbyist,” which had so vexed some reformers (and, as I argued a few weeks ago, presented a genuine challenge to get right). Restrictions were added to tighten up the exception for travel by legislators.

Again, it’s not perfect. Me? I’d also cut out the exceptions that allow lobbyists to continue buying meals for all the members of a legislative committee or subcommittee. But the bill goes far enough that I’m willing to wait and see if it solves the biggest problems.

And, again, the bill still could take a turn for the worse via amendments on the House floor. But what I’ve seen of the legislative process for this bill so far gives makes me optimistic that won’t happen. If it does, you’ll hear from me about it.

When a person is criticized for not doing something, he deserves recognition for setting things right. David Ralston deserves that recognition for this ethics bill, as do many other members of the House leadership team. Their work on this bill is commendable.

The people of Georgia deserve credit, too, for pushing them in this direction. But unlike Ralston and his team, y’all can’t rest just yet: This thing still has to clear the Senate.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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39 comments Add your comment

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

February 25th, 2013
6:48 am

There aren’t that many dummycrats in Georgia government, so what’s the point? Are they planning on losing control sometime soon? dummycrats don’t follow the law anyway. This doesn’t make any sense.

Thomas Heyward Jr

February 25th, 2013
7:03 am

My apology to Mrs.Reba McEntire———–
.
Don’t trust your “ethic reform” to no back woods southern lawyer.
Cause the Legislators in the Dome got money in their hands.

MiltonMan

February 25th, 2013
7:10 am

Kudos to the cons/neo-cons on doing what the libs in this refused to do for 130+ years while they were in charge.

Cutty

February 25th, 2013
7:10 am

Aesop’s response pretty much sums up the average Wingfield blogger. Blame democrats while cons pull the wool over your eyes. Kyle was gonna praise anything the cons came up w related to ethics reform. I’ll wait until final passage before I pass judgment. Just look at the charter school scam Kyle fawned over just last week.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

February 25th, 2013
7:34 am

The thing that would really hamstring the dummycrats would be Truth Reform, with a Truth Commission for enforcement, which, of course, by law couldn’t have any liberals as members. Whenever a dummycrat opens their mouth there would be a five minute delay before any sound could be made, giving enough time for the commission to check the facts. No monetary or criminal penalties would be assessed against violaters, they would just be slapped across their filthy trash filled mouth, in public.

Much more promising than ethics reform, I believe.

Cutty

February 25th, 2013
7:44 am

Yeah, Aesop:

‘Mission Accomplished’

‘The war will pay for itself.’

‘Mushroom Clouds’

‘We’ll be greeted as liberators.’

TBone

February 25th, 2013
8:02 am

I find the fact that our legislators have to spend an exorbitant amount of time piecing together that spells out how they should conduct themselves ridiculous. On a high note, I guess it prevents them from doing something even more stupid to their constituents.

Georgia , The "New Mississippi"

February 25th, 2013
8:04 am

@ Cutty…. I have to agree with you 100% on that. In Kyle’s world the GOP can do no wrong and if the South had won the Civil War America would not have theses problems……… Classic Johnny Reb

Karl Marx

February 25th, 2013
8:06 am

Everyone would be wise to KEEP the “Trust but Verify” approach, even after the bill passes. I still don’t think there is enough of an improvement in the “ethics commission’s authority” to make it have anything but a few barks from under the porch.

Cutty

February 25th, 2013
8:18 am

If the cons were truly interested in ethics, legislators would be held to the same standard as employees from the Dept. of Administrative Services; take nothing from anyone doing business w the state.

Real Athens

February 25th, 2013
8:20 am

Reba? You mean Vicki Lawrence.

Rafe Hollister preparing for an Obamanist America

February 25th, 2013
8:25 am

Ethics reform. I’m so excited. Our lives will never be the same again!

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

February 25th, 2013
8:34 am

Those pretending to reform ethics are ignoring “Lil’ Barry’s Law”. The amount of government corruption will always be proportional to the ability of government to tax, spend, and regulate.

indigo

February 25th, 2013
8:40 am

“the bill’s not perfect”

Kyle, we all know this bill will have loopholes big enough to drive a Mack truck thru.

You’re old enough now not to be this naive.

Just Saying..

February 25th, 2013
9:07 am

What’s news in Georgia: The Party of Integrity proposes rules to not be crooked.

Henne

February 25th, 2013
9:16 am

Yes, that’s Vicki Lawrence’s song, not Reba’s.

Road Scholar

February 25th, 2013
9:49 am

Kyle, I share your optimism, but until passage and the Gov’s signature, the people should not rest. Keep up the pressure. Your editorial may be consider acceptance and we still need to ensure the bill is well defined.

Aesop: Good idea about the Truth Commission, because you would be given the death penalty!

Dusty

February 25th, 2013
9:57 am

Look, folks, this is KYLE’S BLOG where KYLE expresses his opinion. He is nice enough to invite you to post here for discussion.. SO MIND YOUR MANNERS. I get tired of the same ol’ fogies coming here every day just to show their ugly dispositions about Kyle, conservatives, Georgia and the South..

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO STAY HERE.. And don’t tell me you can come here and act like a jackass jus ’cause you want to. You don’t have to. We already know too well about YOU. .Kyle has been very patient with the “ignorants” here. Maybe you will wear out your welcome soon. I hope so.

Now i’m gone and won’t be here much today. Don’t bother to call me “names” either. You will be wasting your bothersome time..

Politico

February 25th, 2013
10:02 am

Kyle: Keep up the great work on this issue

Dusty: Doesn’t matter one iota how tired you get because you want an echo chamber and Kyle allows people to also express their opinion even when they differ from his.

You cry too much. You are not the blog sheriff. If Kyle has an issue with any given blogger, he not YOU will handle it.

But do have a great day and try not to feign too much outrage. You come across like a clown if anything.

Junior Samples

February 25th, 2013
10:06 am

Why can’t Dusty mind his own manners?
“ignorants”
“jackasses”

Pot
Kettle
Black

Politico

February 25th, 2013
10:34 am

Dusty

and speaking of “ugly dispositions”, try looking in the mirror and reread your own tripe for a change

But again, do have a great day

:-)

Aquagirl

February 25th, 2013
10:39 am

A meltdown on the first page of the thread? Time for a blog break.

Jefferson

February 25th, 2013
10:40 am

It a shame they have to be treated like kids, you know rules about right and wrong. You would think they would know better.

Don't Tread

February 25th, 2013
10:56 am

While they are to be commended for actually putting ethics reform on the law books (assuming it’s passed), we’ll see how effective the law is at preventing this sort of thing and how the violators are actually punished.

Now if we can get some “ethics reform” injected into the school boards…now there’s some cobwebs to clean out.

md

February 25th, 2013
11:15 am

They are all politicians, and both “sides” do it. I guess the new game will to be grease the palms of the “watchers”………

Jefferson

February 25th, 2013
11:23 am

they don’t all do it, but to say so let’s them get away with it.

JDW

February 25th, 2013
11:24 am

We will see…I know that the hew and cry for this has been loud and long from many quarters including Kyle. Frankly I still think the whole thing is window dressing…an unethical legislator, we have many if not most in this state, will find a way to achieve their objectives. The only way around this is to simply elect better candidates.

Now I know the resident gub’mint is bad group will pooh pooh this idea and that is to be expected, but the fact is on the local, state and federal level we have EXACTLY the government we deserve and to a great extent desire.

Bottom line is the ONLY way to improve the dismal situation of our collective governance is to elect better candidates because that is the ONLY thing that translates to better government…ethics laws not withstanding.

snoqualmiefalls

February 25th, 2013
11:59 am

Aesops @7:34… “slapped across their filthy trash filled mouth in public” “dummycrats”?? Huh?
If this passes for reasonable conversation then I must be in the wrong country, but wait it is Georgia we are talking about isn’t it?
So Aesop tell us all how you really feel? Of course without all the name calling and whining…. Please.

clem

February 25th, 2013
12:15 pm

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

February 25th, 2013
12:51 pm

If this passes for reasonable conversation then I must be in the wrong country, but wait it is Georgia we are talking about isn’t it?

It is absolutely de-sp-ic-able what obozo is saying about the su-ckwester as he criss crosses from campaign stop to campaign stop, and every American should be thoroughly ashamed that their “president” believes them to be so gullible, but if you should choose to be offended by the phrase “filthy mouths,” who am I to question your naivety?

Matz

February 25th, 2013
12:57 pm

Oh, Mr. Wingfield…

You’re so young. You want to believe, and you want to make a difference by sharing your optimism that the “principles” of “conservatism” you currently embrace will bear fruit that will make this a better world for your children. Nonetheless, indigo is right. You’re too old to be this naive. Bless your heart.

Just Saying..

February 25th, 2013
1:19 pm

“Of course without all the name calling and whining…”

Aesop without insults?

What would he do for self esteem?

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

February 25th, 2013
1:35 pm

You think I’m kidding?

Stockman said that in response to Obama’s call for people to tweet their congressman in support of gun control legislation, he received just 16 tweets. But he said all of these messages were identical, and that a closer look at them revealed that only six were from real people.

“The other 10 are fake, computer-generated spambots,” his office said in a press release. As evidence, he said these 10 tweets use default graphics and names, and have not engaged in any interaction with other people. Two of the tweets were sent at nearly the same time, and both follow just one person: Brad Schenck, Obama’s former digital strategist.

These liberals are repulsive liars.

snoqualmiefalls

February 25th, 2013
1:36 pm

I wish to thank Aesop for his cogent explanation… good on ya.
I’m sure TBan would also endorse your comments…. so pithy, so informative.
Thanks.

bluecoat

February 25th, 2013
2:01 pm

Has to clear the senate,and if passed be enforced.Also if enforced not punish the ones doing the enforcing.

bluecoat

February 25th, 2013
2:04 pm

Aesop could be like some posting on here.Different comments different screen name but all from same person.Reckon

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

February 25th, 2013
2:43 pm

Why do the loons always get offended by people talking outside of their party approved groupthink?

Do others who are not mindless band wagon riding hacks, like they are, surprise them?

Hillbilly D

February 25th, 2013
2:53 pm

Me? I’d also cut out the exceptions that allow lobbyists to continue buying meals for all the members of a legislative committee or subcommittee.

How about if a legislator gets a free meal from a lobbyist, we dock his per diem for that day? Doesn’t really need it if he/she got a free meal do they?

As for this bill, it’d be wise to reserve judgement until after it’s passed (assuming it is) and we see what the loopholes are, after the smoke clears.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

February 25th, 2013
2:54 pm

“Loud Groans” Heard in Academy Awards Media Room When Michelle Obama Announced As Surprise Presenter

Obama fatigue – it’s not just for righties anymore.

Welcome aboard, libbies.