January 25-- Editorial writers at the Athens Banner-Herald are challenging Republican lawmakers to do the right thing and support legislation on their dealings with lobbyists.
"Lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Georgia General Assembly haven’t quite been able in recent years to summon the moral courage to severely limit their access to the largess of lobbyists.
Now, though, they’re almost literally hearing an altar call from a wide coalition of the tea partiers and social conservatives whose votes have been sending them to the legislature for the last couple of election cycles.
As was being widely reported in the media Tuesday, all 236 state legislators have received a letter signed by representatives of more than two dozen conservative groups, from the Ten Commandments Project of Georgia to the Georgia Tea Party Patriots.
The letter, aimed at GOP lawmakers, calls on the General Assembly to support ethics legislation filed by Rep. Tommy Smith, R-Nicholls, and Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus.
According to a report from Georgia Public Broadcasting, the bill “would cap lobbyists’ expenditures on lawmakers to $100 ... would require them to disclose gifts for lawmakers’ families, and would prevent public officials from holding state contracts.”
The letter contends the bill “could be the most important piece of legislation in this session,” and includes the thinly veiled threat that “(w)e as Republicans must stand up for all of the values we know to be good and honest. The ethics of our party, and our elected officials, must be above reproach.”
In other words, Republican lawmakers are being told, by a wide range of their voter base, that they’d better get serious about enacting ethics legislation.
It’s a message, sadly enough, that legislators have been hearing for years, but it’s been coming from good-government groups and other organizations that, quite frankly, lawmakers could ignore with little or no consequence.
But now, with the message coming from within their own ranks — or at least from the people upon whom GOP lawmakers rely to hold public office — there is, or at least there should be, more than enough reason for the General Assembly to pass some ethics legislation worthy of that label.
If lawmakers are somehow able to find the moral courage to do what they should have done on their own a long time ago, the people of Georgia will owe a real debt to the tea partiers and social conservatives who themselves had the moral fiber to demand that Republican lawmakers actually abide by the values they profess in order to get votes.
Oh, and when they get the religion to which they now give fervent lip service, GOP lawmakers might also want to give serious consideration to a legislative proposal from Sen. Doug Stoner, D-Smyrna.
Stoner’s bill would, according to an Associated Press story, establish an independent ethics commission appointed by the state Court of Appeals’ chief judge and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, rather than by lawmakers, as is currently the case.
It would, now in both senses of the word, be the “right” thing to do."