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Friday, January 24, 2014 - 2:14pm

Debate Over Ethics Bill Causes Fireworks At The Capitol

A normally a quick and controversy free Friday at the Capitol was instead filled with fireworks as members of the Senate tried to make changes to a bill dealing with the state ethics commission.

What started as a so–called "simple bill" became a political grudge match as Senate Democrats tried to make changes to the state's ethics policies.

The bill clarified a provision lawmakers passed last year, which exempts local level politicians from reporting campaign contributions to the state if they total less than $2,500 dollars.

Senator Vincent Fort of Atlanta argues the measure reduces paperwork at the expense of transparency.

"You're getting money. We want to know who's giving you money and you ought to report it," said Ford.

But Senator Jason Carter of Decatur sparked the larger debate, calling for an amendment that would change how the state chooses members of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, formerly known as the State Ethics Commission.

"The Governor and the leaders of the two legislative bodies are the wrong people, in my view, to make that appointment," said Carter.

Currently, the governor appoints 3 members of the commission. The Senate appoints one and the House appoints another.

Carter suggests giving the judicial branch the appointment power instead.

"And if we want to convince the people of Georgia that we're doing the right thing, that we're standing up for what's right, that we have a legitimate oversight over things like campaign finance, over things like lobbyists, we might as well do that in a branch that doesn't get lobbied and doesn't run in partisan elections."

But Republicans argue that sometimes the Governor appoints justices.

After voting down Carter's amendment, the Senate then passed the bill and immediately transferred it to the House for consideration.

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