Jan. 31, 2013 — Two years ago, legislative leaders squawked mightily at the notion that Georgians might have to register as lobbyists when they visit the Capitol. Today, some of those same leaders may embrace the very same position — and more — that they once deplored. A House subcommittee will consider Speaker David Ralston’s 2013 ethics package, which would make people pay $320 in lobbyist registration fees if they want to talk policy with legislators on behalf of any organization, whether it’s Georgia Power Co., the Tea Party or the Girl Scouts.
UPDATE: House members made it abundantly clear before today’s hearing that there’s no way that the final language of the ethics bill will abridge anyone’s First Amendment rights. No details yet, but it seems likely that the revised bill will try to exempt the average citizen who visits the Capitol only occasionally.
What, exactly, is a lobbyist? That’s the common thread in countless conversations around the Capitol these days. Full-time lobbyists are organizing a trade group so they can hang out more and project a more professional image to the public. And two other groups — smaller public-interest groups and business executives and sales representatives — say they’d rather not have to register as lobbyists, thank you very much.