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‘Incumbent-protection’ plan dies with 2015 ethics bill

April 3, 2015 --

April 3, 2015 — It was a simple little bill, meant to offer local politicians relief from a dysfunctional state ethics commission. In the end, though, lawmakers added enough baggage, stripped it out, then restored it that the bill died Thursday in the Georgia Senate.

So which is the more dysfunctional arm of state government?

The Legislature’s inaction underscores the dangers inherent in its reliance on last-minute backroom deals. Thousands of political candidates will remain in limbo over payment of more than $1.5 million in late filing fees, and the ethics commission — given the likelihood that lawmakers will revisit the issue in 2016 — has no incentive to press for collection.

The bill’s demise also spells the end, at least for now, of two controversial add-ons: Letting House and Senate party caucuses spend unlimited amounts to protect incumbents, and making outside agitators like Grover Norquist register and report their spending.

Lawmakers down to wire on ‘Incumbent Protection Act’

Lawmakers down to wire on 'Incumbent Protection Act'
March 31, 2015 --

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.”

Ethics panel seeks dollars, gets pennies — maybe

March 31, 2011 --

State senators this week agreed to give the State Campaign Finance Commission a fraction of the sum needed to meet new requirements for enforcing ethics laws. The Senate recommended a $30,000 bump for the agency’s certified mail expenses, rather than the requested $130,000, and none of the $290,000 sought for processing and posting thousands of local candidates’ financial disclosures online.

Why do politicians give each other campaign cash?

Why do politicians give each other campaign cash?
March 14, 2011 --

March 14, 2011 — Georgia’s ethics reformers have a bill to push, but they’ll be pushing uphill if they want to restrict politicians giving large sums to each other, a practice sometimes described as “empire-building.” A case in point? Three top Senate Republicans, as they maneuvered to strip Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle last year of some of his power, donated $45,000 to 12 Senate freshmen. Caucus Chair Bill Cowsert said the contributions were part of his obligation as a party leader, not an effort to sway votes.

Deposed committee chair: President pro tem a socialist, lt. gov. a dictator

Deposed committee chair: President pro tem a socialist, lt. gov. a dictator
April 12, 2010 --

A defiant Preston Smith today posted this fascinating speech, in which the Rome Republican acknowledges he was removed as chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee for refusing to support the so-called hospital “bed tax.” Gov. Sonny Perdue offered the 1.45 percent tax on hospitals’ revenue to help plug a $600 million deficit in the state’s Medicaid […]

Ethics budget takes 30% hit for 2009-10

Ethics budget takes 30% hit for 2009-10
April 3, 2009 --

The State Ethics Commission will lose about 30 percent of its current funding in the 2010 state budget passed Friday. The Georgia House and Senate compromised on a $1.2 million budget for the agency in negotiations on the last day of the 2009 legislative session. The House last week slashed spending on ethics enforcement to […]

Cagle denies role in inserting retroactive provision in TAD bill

March 31, 2009 --

This came in from Cagle’s spokeswoman, Jaillene Hunter, in response to rumors that Cagle had asked the Senate Finance Committee to: “To be clear, the Lt Governor had absolutely no involvement in a Senate substitute to H.B. 63. We are unaware of who suggested he was, but it is a completely false assumption. “H.B. 63 […]