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Sunday, April 18, 2010 - 7:31am

Lawmakers To Debate Ethics Reform Legislation

Now that lawmakers in the state house have passed the first draft of a budget, they have four more days to focus on other issues like ethics. House Speaker David Ralston promised reform in the wake of the Richardson scandal earlier this year.

Under Ralston’s bill, lobbyists would have to more frequently report how much they’re spending on lawmakers. They’ll be prohibited from emailing and texting them while bills are being debated, and they'll have to pay a $300 registration fee.

Critics say the bill doesn’t get to the root of the problem. Bill Bozarth with Common Cause Georgia says the state needs to cap how much lobbyists can spend on lawmakers.

"We believe by limiting what can be given in one instance we can start to reduce the coziness between the lobbying community and legislators that was really at the heart of the Richardson scandal," says Bozarth.

The former house speaker resigned from his position after the public learned he allegedly had an affair with a lobbyist whose bill he pushed.

Democrat George Hooks who heads the senate ethics committee says he’ll push for a cap when the bill passes over to his chamber.

"I think it’s important for the people to know that members of the senate and house are not being wined and dined all over town by a lobbyist," says Hooks.

Meanwhile, the measure has yet to be scheduled for debate on the house floor.