UPDATE: Early this afternoon, the House Rules Committee amended the Senate bill (SB127) to delete any changes in early-voting procedures. The House then passed the amended bill on a 167-7 vote. The Senate stripped this language from a similar last week and now must decide whether to stand firm or let the House have its way. After dinner tonight, senators voted to stand firm.
March 31, 2015 — Once again, Georgia enters the final week of a legislative session with the prospects for an ethics bill up in the air.
The Georgia House and Senate have two business days left – today and Thursday – to act on a bill that would allow waivers of late campaign disclosure filing fees for thousands of local candidates.
Both chambers have passed similar versions of the bill. Twice, though, the House has tacked on a controversial amendment that could help re-elect legislators facing primary challenges from within their own party — earning it the nickname “the Legislative Incumbent Protection Act.”
Meadows said he worked hard during his first five years at the Capitol to build a campaign war chest of $41,000. Once he was named Insurance chair, he didn’t have to try so hard, collecting $77,000 in the summer and fall of 2010. Another $419,000 followed once he became Rules chair in 2011.
He’s given much of that away to other Republican candidates. “I have a lot more money than I ever thought I would,” he said.
Lobbyists, who spent less than $4,500 on Meadows in 2006-09, have lavished nearly $21,000 on meals, entertainment and other gifts for him since 2011.
The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee has rejected a complaint about a possible conflict between a lawmaker’s public duties and private work. A spokesman said the panel will not consider complaints based solely on news articles, in this case my recent piece on a $40,000 contract between Rep. Earl Ehrhart’s consulting business and an advocacy group seeking public funding for the arts. That standard makes it next to impossible for citizens to get the committee to investigate a lawmaker’s conduct.
A powerful Cobb County legislator collected $40,000 last year to do research to help an advocacy group decide the best way to ask the Legislature for money. Rep. Earl Ehrhart and his client, Friends of Arts & Culture, say he did not help to write a bill that would have allowed local votes on arts funding, nor did he help move it through the Legislature. “I never consult on any type of legislation that’s going on here,” he said. Ehrhart did not disclose his client or his fee, which state law does not require. Nor did he disclose the name of his consulting business, which the law does require. This is what passes for transparency in the Georgia Legislature. UPDATE: An ethics complaint regarding this transaction was filed this week with the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee.
UPDATE: The ethics bill was recommitted just now (12:20 p.m. Wednesday) to the Rules Committee. Not sure what’s up with that. We’ll find out when the committee meets at 1:30 p.m.
The House Rules Committee today pushed ahead with Speaker David Ralston’s ethics bill after rejecting Democrats’ drive for a $50 cap on gifts from lobbyists. The panel scheduled the bill, tweaked just before the meeting, for debate by the full House on Wednesday. Procedurally, the measure was passed in such a way that it cannot be amended on the House floor.
Rep. Mark Burkhalter, not House Speaker Glenn Richardson, appears to be the Georgia Legislature’s top campaign fund-raiser for 2009. The Johns Creek Republican, who serves as speaker pro tem, collected $94,250 in campaign funds for the first six months of 2009. Richardson reported raising $88,150 in the same period.