With time running out, the Georgia Senate Thursday raised the stakes on a push for lobbying reform across the state, making substantial changes to a bill that overwhelmingly passed the House last month.
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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has covered the push for ethics reform every step of the way with investigative reporting looking into how our public officials interact with lobbyists, where the system fails and how other states have done it better. As the Legislature wrestles with how to overhaul the system, the AJC will continue to provide in-depth coverage you will not find anywhere else.
The Senate unveiled major revisions Thursday to House Bill 142, House Speaker David Ralston’s effort to limit lobbying gifts to public officials. The bill heads Friday to the Senate for a vote, but faces an uncertain future back in the House. Here’s a look at the differences in the approaches.
On individual spending:
- House: Banned
- Senate: Subject to a $100 cap per instance or less.*
On group spending:
- House: Lobbyists can spend unlimited amounts on committees, caucuses and other recognized groups.
- Senate: Allowed but limited to $100 per official.
On football tickets, golf and other recreational gifts:
- House: Banned with limited exceptions.
- Senate: Allowed but limited to $100 value.
- House: Allowed with limitations. Must be related to “official duties.” Cannot include airfare, travel expenses for spouse or recreational costs.
- Senate: Allowed with limitations. Must be within the U.S.; must be within “official duties.” Lobbyists cannot pay for spouse or staff expenses.
On lobbyist registration:
- House: Expands registration to unpaid advocates representing an organization on a legislative matter for at least five days. Removes all costs for registration.
- Senate: Makes virtually no change to existing law. Volunteers do not need to register.
NOTE: *The Senate version of the bill requires public bodies to adopt public rules setting a cap of no more than $100 on gifts from lobbyists. If no rule is adopted, an automatic ban on gifts is applied.