Georgia House of Representatives approves HB 142 - CBS46 News

Georgia House of Representatives approves HB 142

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The Georgia House of Representatives Monday approved a bill to ban all lobbyist gifts to lawmakers by a vote of 164-4.

The bill allows the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission to adopt any rules and regulations necessary and appropriate.

Except they cannot require the reporting or disclosure of more information than required by law.

The bill also prohibits lobbyists from making expenditures for tickets to admission to athletic, sporting, recreational, musical concert, or other entertainment events.

Unless consideration of equal or greater than face value is received. 

For years, lobbyists could pay for expensive trips, give lawmakers tickets to football games and treat them to lavish meals.

House Speaker David Ralston introduced the bill.

Watchdog groups have called for lawmaker to ban, or at least cap, gift giving ever since it came to light in 2010 when a lobbyist had paid for Ralston's $17,000 trip to Europe.

The average voter likes the gift ban. They say lobbyists have too much power over politics.

"There should be limitations on what can be done," said voter Winston Folmar.

Folmar doesn't have deep pockets to buy access to a lawmaker. He's just an average voter. He doesn't understand how Georgia could let lobbyists spend whatever they want on lawmakers.

"It's surprising to hear," said Folmar. "I think there should be a reasonable standard."

Voter Tom Fritzche said the ban is a good idea.

"It means that people with more money or interests with more money are able to get influence with legislators and the average person has a harder time getting their voice heard because of the excessive influence lobbyists can get," said Tom Fritzche.

The bill, however, is controversial.

One provision would require average citizens to register as lobbyists if they want to talk to a lawmaker more than five times.

Critics said the bill sends the wrong message.

"Since when do we have to register for our first amendment rights just because we represent a group?" asked Debbie Dooley, with the Atlanta Tea Party. That is wrong"

 Ralston defended his bill.

"First of all, it does not require the average citizen to register as a lobbyist. All it does is simply require people who are here on a frequent basis advocating or against a bill to wear a name badge. That's all it says," Ralston said.

The bill heads to the State Senate for review. 

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