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Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 11:42am

Ethics Redux Already Planned

State lawmakers are already saying next year they may need to tighten loopholes in an ethics bill they passed last week.

The bill will limit lobbyists’ spending on individual lawmakers to $75 per expenditure. But critics and supporters alike say it contains exceptions that may undermine the intent to rein in lobbyists’ power.

Tom Crawford edits the online political digest The Georgia Report. He says one glaring loophole applies to lawyers.

“All they have to say is they’re representing a client and they are exempted from registering as lobbyists or even report what they spend on what we would consider lobbying activities,” he said in an interview

Gov. Nathan Deal has yet to sign the bill, which lawmakers have called historic, but he's already said he plans to monitor its effects closely to see if it does what it's supposed to do.

Brian Robinson is Deal’s spokesman. He says, nonetheless, it’s one of the session’s victories even if more needs to be done.

“There was some ethics legislation passed. He is calling it a good start,” he said.

Lobbyists’ spending has already dropped. But Crawford, of The Georgia Report, says the exemptions may mar lawmakers' good intentions. The bill, for example, will allow lobbyists to spend whatever they want on groups of lawmakers, just not individual officials.

“Certainly they are to be commended for at least making a stab at trying to fix some of the problems," he said. "But they came up with a bill with so many loopholes and exemptions in it, they may have created more problems than they solved.”

Deal is expected to sign the measure as part of the 40-day bill review period, which is already underway.