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Thursday, March 21, 2013 - 8:22am

Georgia Senate Proposes Ethics Bill Changes

Thursday morning Senator Jeff Mullis, Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, presented his substitute to the House ethics bill in front of that committee.

Mullis, a Republican from Chickamauga, made drastic changes. His version rewrites the legislation to include a $100 gift cap, which the Senate passed early in the legislative session.

“We are eliminating those loopholes that I think people have been concerned about for so long,” said Senator Cecil Staton, a Macon Republican.

The bill closes those “loopholes” by eliminating group spending exceptions. Under the legislation, lobbyists would not be able to spend money on individual committees, caucuses or delegations.

Mullis’s bill also changes the definition of a “lobbyist” by returning it to current law. In a public hearing Tuesday, several citizen activists shared concerns that their First Amendment rights were restricted under the House’s ethics bill.

The House version would have required Georgians who are at the Capitol for five days or more each session to register, but the Senate version drops that provision. Only those paid for their lobbying activities would have to register with the state.

Travel expenditures by lobbyists are also more strictly regulated under Mullis’s legislation. Lawmakers can no longer go out of the country on lobbyists’ dime. Travel costs for a legislator’s family and staff cannot be covered either.

Senator Mullis said the full Senate should vote on his proposal on the floor Friday.

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