Ralston Presents His Ethics Plan

According to Aaron Sheinin at the AJC, Speaker Ralston is presenting his plan now:

Ralston said they’ve already made substantial changes this year, including eliminating the controversial “hawks” system, and letting the media back on the House floor.

“We made the House more transparent, more inclusive,” Ralston said. “I’m very proud of that.”

Ralston said the “best police force to public officials is the public. They are assisted by the media and assisted by others.”

I still firmly believe that the most important issue to come out of this session is substantial ethics reform. These guys have one chance to get it right, and time is growing short.

All of us on the front page at Peach Pundit will have a lot more to say about this as we move toward the close of this session, but today it’s your turn.

What do you want in an ethics package, and how important to you view this topic relative to the other business the General Assembly is considering?

54 comments

  1. Ryan says:

    1. 48-hour disclosure on all campaign contributions and gifts
    2. No gifts of more than $100
    3. 3-year minimum time limit between serving as a legislator or state government agency head and registering as a lobbyist and the same time period for lobbyist-to-legislator.
    4. Independent redistricting!

      • Ryan says:

        You do independent redistricting like Arizona, Hawaii, New Jersey, Idaho and Washington. You create a commission composed of citizens (no public officeholders allowed) and they have the computer population projections to work from. California also created such a commission in 2008.

          • Ryan says:

            It’s all about changing the rules. That’s always the hardest thing to do and it gets the most push back from those riding the status quo. The public will have to identify the specific mechanisms of government that have to be changed and maintain the focus and the will to do it.

  2. BrentWinner says:

    I’d like to see a sliding scale developed based on campaign contributions to a campaign. The campaign would then pay that amount towards funding of the State Ethics Commission. You’d be required to pay each time you are required to file a campaign disclosure report with the commission. I’d also like to see something akin to the BRAC commission setup that would develop changes to Georgia’s ethics laws/rules and present them to the General Assembly for an up/down only vote. I’d also like to see something where the State Ethics Commission – should it ever have the appropriate staffing – would be able to check submitted disclosures against bank statements to verify the accuracy of the reports. I don’t mean for the bank statements to become part of the public record. I mean for campaigns to be aware that there will be verification of the reports they submit – not necessarily all reports but certainly a sample.

    • macho says:

      Seems a little contradictory to require politicians to hit lobbyists up even more for campaign contributions to pay for an ethics fee.

  3. Atticus says:

    I think it needs to be made public who’s boinking who and let the voters sort it our in November. Simple as that.

  4. B Balz says:

    1.) Adequately fund the Ethics Commission,
    2.) Enforce the laws in place,

    Ralston said the “best police force to public officials is the public. They are assisted by the media and assisted by others.”

    To be relevant in the dialogue on ethics, non-MSM (like PP) ought to also consider their own standards. Some pretty scurrilous statements float around, without any accountability.

    To be taken seriously, any non-MSM, ought to have a strict set of policies governing what is allowable.

    • B Balz,

      It did my heart good when David Ralston stopped the session to throw a lobbyist off of the state house floor. That’s the kind of action we need to take: immediate, certain and bound by law.

  5. Bucky Plyler says:

    I am not opposed to ethics legislation , changes in rules that will help, or simply enforcing what is already in place.

    However, the best thing we can do is elect people who will do right & quit electing those who have proved the opposite.

    • B Balz says:

      I am sure everyone feels that way, how does one know? The folks in Hiram sure thought they knew their guy, right?

    • polisavvy says:

      It also appears that some change after being elected. There’s no way of knowing what you’re going to get. It’s like a crap shoot.

        • Doug Deal says:

          Bucky, you have seen it, here and elsewhere, where people will defend to the death corrupt people simply because on the letter by their name. Voters more often choose the person they dislike least. Sometimes BOTH candidates need to be rotting in prison instead of one of them getting a chance to serve.

  6. ChiefofStaff65 says:

    The difference in Ethics versus Morals.

    Discuss.

    Do you want a moral elected official or an ethical elected official? Yes, we would all like both, but, to the extent that we will always get that is null and if it was 100%, we would have no need to discuss ethics reform.

    For, as it was said by that pesky Founding Father in the Federalist #51:

    If men were angels, no government would be necessary.

    • Bucky Plyler says:

      Agreed Chief. In fact, I believe that God has ordained gov’t because all of us have experienced the same sin problem.

      I also believe that the founders realized that self government is the key & that that self government is impossible without the intervention of the Lord Jesus in a person’s life. Without this kind of intervention, you sinply have the fox in charge of the hen house. The fox will act according to his nature.

      Certainly, non-Christins can act in ethical ways as well. Regardless, when you have a thief managing the funds, you need (at the very least) to change to someone who has not proven to be a thief.

  7. Doug Deal says:

    One of the best ethics reforms. Term limits.

    In addition, create a statewide special grand jury to handle ethics complaints from any elected official (including judges) at any level, state, county or city. If they are charged, they stand trial for removal from office.

    Allow any voter in their district to file a complaint, but perhaps require it to be signed by say 5 to prevent a couple of crackpots from abusing the system.

    For trial, have a panel that can exonerate, convict, disqualify, ban, and recommend criminal charges to the AG.

    • ChiefofStaff65 says:

      Statewide grand Jury?

      Hasn’t that scallywag Austin Scott been saying that for awhile?

      Sounds like a guy who found his candidate for Governor.

      • Doug Deal says:

        Chief, I’ve been in favor of that since before Austin was a glimmer in the eye of his constituency.

        Maybe Austin has found HIS candidate for governor.

          • Doug Deal says:

            You’ve seen me post here, do you really think that would HELP your candidate? 😛

            Right now, I am just happy that Handel and Scott have made ethics a priority. Whatever happens, though, needs serious teeth or otherwise it will do more harm by kicking the can down the road rather than fixing anything.

            Politicians who steal from the public treasury, which is what this mainly boils down to, need to see most of their remaining days behind bars and their personal property sold and wealth confiscated to repay it.

    • macho says:

      I’ve never been a big fan of term limits, since we essentially have them every two years. It’s always seemed somewhat paternalistic to me, for government to step in and say, “Voters, you’re too stupid to weed out the bad politicians, so we’ll just throw out everybody.” In the end, we can protect us from ourselves.

  8. Atticus says:

    If we just aired people’s dirty laundry, then the voters will take care of them the following November. Is that too easy?

  9. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants. – Justice Louis Brandeis

    As much sunlight as possible.

    We now have the technology, so there is no good reason to wait three months for a list of contributions and contributors. It should be weekly and that would give the candidates time to vet the contributor if they are so inclined.

    What other information should the public have readily available? Do any of these sound reasonable and possible?

    Spouse’s occupation?
    Any state dealings with immediate family members?
    No-bid contracts going to legislators or other politicians?
    Lists of corporate boards legislators sit on?
    Corporations filing reports listing former legislators and/or staffers who are now lobbyists?
    Having legislators report all discussions with lobbyists (including that conversation in the elevator)? AND lobbyists to report all discussions with legislators?

    Too much?

    • AND candidates must file a complete list of contributions 72 hours before election day. Any contributions made between that time and the day after the election must be returned to the contributor within 10 days.

    • macho says:

      The press has really beaten up the GA Legislature on ethics reform. I think there are a few things to make our laws better, for instance a cap on gifts. But, the press, conveniently leaves out the best aspects of GA’s ethics laws. For instance, we have a lot more “sunshine” regarding gifts than most states. When the press does their, “Which legislators gets the most gifts” lists, they have access to the information due to GA’s ethics laws.

    • GOPGeorgia says:

      I’m Ok with most of that, but I think the elevator conversation is “iffy”. Reporting conversations is one thing, especially if it concerns a bill being debated. Reporting “Hello Joe” is a bit far.

  10. ChiefofStaff65 says:

    If all of you believe what you have stated about how ethics should be handled, then Austin Scott should be your choice for Governor.

      • ChiefofStaff65 says:

        Bucky, while your rousing defense of Senator Jeff Chapman was quite deep, and your inexplicable polishing of the merits of Senator Jeff Chapman were eloquent and intellectual, especially when inundated with linguistics like “Nah,” I would challenge you to highlight the differences in the two candidates and then explain to me why you would not put them both in the same category.

        Yes, it was a long sentence.

        • Bucky Plyler says:

          How about this. I can’t say anything bad about Austin Scott, so I won’t!

          However, I know Jeff Chapman personally. Jeff is very refreshing to me as a person & politician. Most of my prior life was spent working for local governments. This experience quite frankly jaded my opinion about politicians in general. In short, I know too much now! Jeff doesn’t serve with the same motivation that most of them do.

          Both men have common ground and good records.

          • ChiefofStaff65 says:

            For the record, I am a HUGE fan of Jeff Chapman.

            If I was not an Austin Scott fan, I would be on the Jeff Chapman train.

  11. ready2rumble says:

    One candidate has done something about ethics – Handel.

    Handel passed the toughest ethics policy for any county in the state when she was the Fulton County Chair.

    Handel also implemented an ethics policy for the SoS office. Other people can talk about what they would do, Handel has already implemented it.

  12. Atticus Grinch says:

    I am deeply disappointed that the State GOP will let ethics reform revolve around more and better reporting and not limitations on gifts and meals. Gee, I wonder why the lawmakers oppose an outright ban on gifts or even severe limitations on lobbyists’ goodies ? Could it be that they really enjoy those concert tickets and $ 200 meals and don’t want to give them up?

    • Doug Deal says:

      Reporting and limitations mean nothing without harsh consequences for non compliance. If people aren’t going to jail for ethics violations and instead get piddly fines and warnings none of it will be taken seriously.

      We have legislators who do not even take compliance with the tax code seriously.

    • GOPGeorgia says:

      Atticus,

      I think you mean the state legislature and not the state GOP. Let me know if I am wrong on that one.

      Let me ask a question or two, for clarification purposes. Lobbyist are people who represent groups of people with similar ideas to influence legislation. The Gun Owners of America and the NRA like to get involved with issues concerning gun ownership. Are you suggesting that they only do that with giving direct contributions? Do you want to ban the meals and golf trips where they actually get to explain what they want to accomplish? Or should they just send over position papers with possible bill language with a check placed on top? Or do the just send over a gift wrapped gun? (Could be taken the wrong way.)

      I like the idea of reporting all campaign contributions and expenditures within 7 days.

      I like a 2 year wait between a legislators job as a legislator and being hired as a lobbyist, a contractor getting state funds, or government agency head or employee.

      I’m OK with lobbyist gifts as long as the are disclosed. The same goes for campaign contributions. If candidate X is offered 100,000 from 1 person and he accepts, it’s up to the public to decide if that’s improper.

      For those that disagree, are you telling me it’s not being done now? I am saying just be honest about it.

      I’m fine with a very detailed financial disclosure report for all candidates when they file to run for office.

      I agree with jail time for egregious violations. Putting down “best effort” for a contributor who gave $1 to $200 is OK. “Best effort” for $1000 up, is not. If a legislator is going to accept a contribution from a construction company that does business with the state, that’s fine. If he has an ownership interest in the company and doesn’t disclose it, that’s a problem.

  13. Jeff says:

    Here’s an idea I discussed a href=”http://swgapolitics.com/index/2010/01/04/meaningful-ethics-reform/”>nearly 3 months ago:

    $10 fine for every ethics violation for politicians – per registered voter in the district, per occurrance This specifically would INCLUDE late/non disclosure and all other ethics violations. In other words, when the child molester was 3 weeks late on his last report, that would have cost him $210 * however many registered voters there were in the State at the time.

    Pretty powerful incentive to do things at least by the letter of the law there, don’t ya think?

    Furthermore, let’s make the same fine apply to government agencies that violate Sunshine laws. Again, pretty big incentive for them to follow the law, particularly in larger districts and at the State level.

  14. Progressive Dem says:

    Campaign contributions to one candidate can’t be transferred to personal accounts, or given to other candidates.

Comments are closed.