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Is a Law Limiting Lobbyist Gifts Necessary?

A proposed Senate bill would ban lobbyists’ giving of gifts to any public official in Georgia. Tell us what you think of this bill from State Sens. Bill Heath and Bill Cowsert.

Georgia lawmakers have wasted little time this year pushing for limits on lobbyist gifts.

As the General Assembly got under way last week, the state Senate set a $100 cap on lobbyist gifts to its members. Legislators’ first day also saw the filing of Senate Bill 36, which if passed would enact an even wider ban on lobbyist gifts. A copy of the legislation is attached to this article.

The bill, which is sponsored by State Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, and State Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, would prohibit any gift from a lobbyist to a public officer in the state. According to Heath, current state law defines a gift as something with a value in excess of $100.

The Senate rule passed before SB 36’s filing is not without its loopholes. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in its report on the Senate’s gift cap notes that even under the rule, gifts worth more than $100 could be made to an entire committee or subcommittee. And the cap does not apply to family members or Senate staffers.

The AJC’s “Political Insider,” Jim Galloway, says there is a “fundamental situation” amid the moves to limit lobbyist gifts—a low legislator pay rate. He reports that the state’s lawmakers earn $17,342 a year before their per diem, which brings their pay to about $24,000 annually.

“We need to start paying a decent salary to these 236 lawmakers sent to Atlanta each year,” Galloway said.

One argument supporting higher legislator pay, Galloway adds, ties into the gift issue: If lawmakers earned more, they “would be less likely to feel entitled to the free meals, booze, and tickets to concerts and football games” given by lobbyists.

Is a law limiting lobbyist gifts to public officials necessary? Would a law banning such gifts be successful in making government more ethical?

Would increasing legislator pay make lawmakers less likely to accept gifts? Should state leaders consider a pay bump, or should they look at other changes first?

Share what’s on your mind with us, and then return here to see what your neighbors in Paulding, Douglas and Cobb have said.

Kenneth Patterson January 23, 2013 at 11:01 AM
Yes they are there to do the peoples work not wine and dine take trips or vacations.
L A Hays January 23, 2013 at 01:11 PM
Why should lawmakers receive ANY gifts from ANYBODY? Election to public office does not entitle office holders to goodies from those seeking to influence their vote, which is the only reason for these gifts (bribes? inducements? enticements?). I immediately suspect anyone who argues in favor of these gifts--what's going on under their table?
Tom Lindsay January 23, 2013 at 02:11 PM
Is the law necessary? Emphatically, yes! The Georgia legislature has shown that it will not limit itself without statutory controls, and, even then, members will stretch those limits to fit their own needs and definitions. To me, this is a start of ethics reform in the gold dome.
ken holewinski January 23, 2013 at 02:31 PM
YES. Politics should be for the voters, Not special interest groups!
keith January 23, 2013 at 04:33 PM
I believe lobbing should be outlawed alltogether. 10 year in jail for lobbing. 20 year for accepting a bribe, which is all lobbing amounts to
Marsi Thrash January 23, 2013 at 05:20 PM
A lobbyist is the person you hire to protect you from the person you elected.
Pete January 23, 2013 at 07:18 PM
Actually, a lobbyist is a person or group hired by a business or group to grease government in order to gain benefit, through law, and in tern the elected official becomes indentured to said group. See NRA, NAAACP, AFLCIO, Green movement, Auto Industry, Big Health, Big Business, Big Energy, Big Religion, Big Ethnic, and any of the subsequent minor groups within each - they run the country, not We the People..
Marsi Thrash January 23, 2013 at 07:57 PM
Lobbyists also provide important information to lawmakers. They can't be experts in all areas. Lobbyists help educate, especially about unintended consequences of laws.
keith January 23, 2013 at 08:22 PM
Lawmakers Don't need money or gifts to understand the consequences of laws. Money or gifts constitutes a bribe no matter how you look at it. It should be against the law.
Marsi Thrash January 23, 2013 at 08:38 PM
Then no business can entertain clients (or potential clients), play golf, do any other relationship building?
Sylvia Beach January 23, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Only three states (Georgia, Indiana, and South Dakota) have no regulations on lobbyists giving to lawmakers. The Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity ranked this state last in the country for the strength of its laws on public corruption and government openness. From Jan 1st - Mar 31st 2012 lobbyists gave legislators about $9,500 per day in gifts. Two of the city's council members were lobbyists. Teri Anulewicz (Ward 3) and Ron Fennel (Ward 7).
Marsi Thrash January 23, 2013 at 11:56 PM
Teri isn't/wasn't a lobbyist. She worked in Public Affairs. VERY different. And Florida has one of the strictest lobbying laws. It's changed nothing. Just makes it impossible for the public to know what's going on. There are ways around everything.
Sylvia Beach January 24, 2013 at 12:41 AM
She was registered in the states of North Carolina and Arkansas. http://www.secretary.state.nc.us/lobbyists/Lobbyist.aspx?PId=8060603
Sylvia Beach January 24, 2013 at 01:28 AM
Georgia elects 236 legislators. In 2012, 1243 lobbyists representing 1785 clients were registered in the state. http://www.followthemoney.org/database/StateGlance/state_lobbyists.phtml?s=GA&y=2012
Marsi Thrash January 24, 2013 at 02:25 AM
She's City Council in Smyrna, FYI. And some states require lobbyist registration to do even grass roots activities. Even if no expenditures are made.
Marsi Thrash January 24, 2013 at 02:26 AM
Doesn't mean they spent money.
Brian January 24, 2013 at 06:38 AM
Yes, receiving gifts is a form of corruption. Nobody should be able to bribe officials.
Sylvia Beach January 24, 2013 at 02:09 PM
http://www.followthemoney.org/database/StateGlance/state_contributors.phtml?s=GA&y=2012 Total Dollars Contributed to Date: $25,269,638 70% of Reports Collected See the Grid
MS January 24, 2013 at 03:09 PM
Marsi Thrash is a lobbyist for Big Pharma. Nothing more needs to be said.
Marsi Thrash January 24, 2013 at 08:45 PM
No I'm not.
JB January 25, 2013 at 03:25 PM
@Marsi Thrash While there is some truth to your statements, if that information came without gifts, free tickets, football games, junkets to the Bahamas, it would be much better. I worked at the Capitol long enough to know that the one who greases the palm the best, gets the vote. Yet, this las does nothing about campaign donations which is the other biggggggggggg elephant in the room.
JB January 25, 2013 at 03:30 PM
Are you crazy? I doubt there was a lobbyists who saw one of our lawmakers that didn't have either a gift, ticket, trip, or donation to present (although not on Capitol grounds......)
Pete January 31, 2013 at 05:51 PM
Look, like anything else, lobbying has roots in something noble, ends up becoming abused, and in the end someone benefits by all that "relationship building" - usually the lobby-er and the lobby-ee.. "Relationship building" and "Educating" are all well and good, but the fact remains that gifts get them in the door to exert that influence, one side or the other, or many times both. Lobbying is legally accepted bribery.. Nothing more..
keith February 01, 2013 at 02:42 AM
When you bribe a cop you go to jail. The same should happen when you bribe a lawmaker. Business and politics are two different thangs. Business courts clients to make money. Lawmakers are supposed to represent the people not big business. To accept s bribe is criminal. And should be treated as such.
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