Here in Georgia there has been some chatter about the need for ethics reform among state lawmakers. While the citizens of Georgia are struggling to find jobs and dutifully paying their state income taxes as they are working, state lawmakers are in Atlanta living it up on the taxpayers' dime and the big bucks of special interests.
Before the 2013 General Assembly utters a prayer, pounds a gavel or debates a bill, your legislators will observe a different sort of tradition: the feeding season.
Ravenous lawmakers crowd around the trough of campaign contributions, taking in more than a million dollars in the early days of the new year. The feeding stops abruptly with the start of the session on Jan. 14 – to protect the integrity of the legislative process.
Then the parties, receptions and intimate dinners commence – every night for three months. Free booze will flow in lobbyist hospitality suites. The most influential lawmakers will dine privately and attend sporting events or concerts with lobbyists and business leaders picking up the tab.
On the floor and in the committee rooms, you can identify the most powerful lawmakers simply by checking their fundraising and lobbying totals. The cost of access to a legislator rises as he does: being promoted to chair a key committee doubles his campaign contributions and lobbyist gifts.
This year we're being told that ethics reforms are on the agenda. One of the proposals being made by six Georgia lawmaker's, is H.B. 142.
According to a disturbing email I received yesterday from Georgia Campaign for Liberty, H.B. 142 would:
...classify any person speaking to elected officials as lobbyists and require them to pay a $300 fee for the “privilege.”
That means if you want to complain to your local school board, your city council, or at a public hearing at the Capitol - these 6 politicians are demanding that you either pay up or shut up!
Further, as a “lobbyist,” you would be subjected to all of the onerous and confusing reporting requirements that paid lobbyists are made to suffer under. And if you fail to follow these bureaucratic procedures perfectly, you could be fined over $10,000.00!
These politicians claimed to want to reduce the size and scope of government and to defend civil liberties when they were on the campaign trail, but their Constitution-shredding bill actually expands the power and scope of this bureaucratic committee.
The bill also allows politicians to pick and appoint certain “special” people who can lobby officials without having to follow the same rules as normal citizens like you and me.
Imagine a society where in order to speak your mind about government, you were forced to first pay a fee, and then follow strict, bureaucratic compliance rules - unless you were a part of a special oligarchy of lobbyists approved by government officials. [emphasis original]
It appears to me that what we have here is a bunch of bribe-loving, party animals in Atlanta proposing to address their own lack of ethics by making guys like me pay a fee and be registered as a lobbyist to speak to them. They're simply crafting a law to restrict the freedoms of those who aren't causing the problem. Where have we seen that before?
It's all a crock I tell ya! I'm really starting to wonder what these people are smoking at those parties in Atlanta!
The Old Testament prophet/judge Samuel once asked the people of Israel:
Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you. (1 Sam 12:3 KJV)
The people of Israel replied that he was blameless. How many politicians today at any level of government could ask those questions and be found blameless? They take bribes, pervert justice, attack freedom, violate their oath of office, and regulate markets to help their crony supporters.
I have a radical idea, maybe we should try electing people with some real morals and ethics to begin with! "Ethics reforms" wouldn't be needed at all if we did that. A good dose of personal integrity is all that is needed here. I know, I know, I'm living in a dream world. That's just too radical.
In the meantime, those of us living in the State of Georgia need to make our voices heard in Atlanta before we end up having to register and pay a fee to able to do so.
Here's the names and contact information for the sponsors of H.B. 142:
Speaker David Ralston
Rep. Edward Lindsey
Rep. Larry O’Neal
Rep. Jan Jones
Rep. Richard Smith
Rep. Calvin Smyre