Ga. House lawmakers listen to proposal to ban lobbyists' gifts - CBS46 News

Ga. House lawmakers listen to proposal to ban lobbyists' gifts

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

Kay Godwin goes to the State Capitol throughout the legislative session to give lawmakers her 2 cents worth on everything from abortion to politicians' ethical behavior.

"That is called freedom of speech," said Godwin, the co-founder of Georgia Conservatives in Action, a largely volunteer, grassroots group.

Godwin does not have the deep pockets of a well-paid, high-powered lobbyist. She is just an average citizen who wants state politicians to hear what she has to say on the big issues.

"I talk to all the legislators on different issues," Godwin said. "We've made a sacrifice to be at this Capitol to make a difference."

But Godwin is worried that a new ethics bill, introduced by House Speaker David Ralston, would limit her ability to talk to lawmakers.

"I wouldn't be able to air my opinion on how this would be a good bill or a bad bill," Godwin said.

House Bill 142 would ban all lobbyists from giving gifts to any elected official.

Godwin complained that the measure would also require regular citizens to register as lobbyists and pay a fee of more than $300 just to talk to a politician who does not directly represent them.

Godwin said that would violate the public's right to free speech.

"If any one of them came up here to talk to somebody rather than their own legislator, they would be breaking the law," Godwin said.

State Rep. Rich Golick, who chairs the subcommittee that held a hearing on the bill, said lawmakers would make sure the public won't lose the right to talk to and legally influence elected officials.

"What's important to understand is the intent of the bill. The intent of the bill is in no way to restrict freedom of speech," Golick said. "That's an issue we will put to bed in total by the time the bill passes out of the house."

The lawmakers adopted a rule to cap gifts a lobbyist can give a senator at $100.

That rule does not apply to the House.

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