Is a Law Limiting Lobbyist Gifts Necessary?

A proposed Senate bill would ban lobbyists’ giving of gifts to any public official in Georgia. Tell us what you think of this bill from State Sens. Bill Heath and Bill Cowsert.

Georgia lawmakers have wasted little time this year pushing for limits on lobbyist gifts.

As the General Assembly got under way last week, the state Senate set a $100 cap on lobbyist gifts to its members. Legislators’ first day also saw the filing of Senate Bill 36, which if passed would enact an even wider ban on lobbyist gifts. A copy of the legislation is attached to this article.

The bill, which is sponsored by State Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, and State Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, would prohibit any gift from a lobbyist to a public officer in the state. According to Heath, current state law defines a gift as something with a value in excess of $100.

The Senate rule passed before SB 36’s filing is not without its loopholes. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in its report on the Senate’s gift cap notes that even under the rule, gifts worth more than $100 could be made to an entire committee or subcommittee. And the cap does not apply to family members or Senate staffers.

The AJC’s “Political Insider,” Jim Galloway, says there is a “fundamental situation” amid the moves to limit lobbyist gifts—a low legislator pay rate. He reports that the state’s lawmakers earn $17,342 a year before their per diem, which brings their pay to about $24,000 annually.

“We need to start paying a decent salary to these 236 lawmakers sent to Atlanta each year,” Galloway said.

One argument supporting higher legislator pay, Galloway adds, ties into the gift issue: If lawmakers earned more, they “would be less likely to feel entitled to the free meals, booze, and tickets to concerts and football games” given by lobbyists.

Is a law limiting lobbyist gifts to public officials necessary? Would a law banning such gifts be successful in making government more ethical?

Would increasing legislator pay make lawmakers less likely to accept gifts? Should state leaders consider a pay bump, or should they look at other changes first?

Share what’s on your mind with us, and then return here to see what your neighbors in Paulding, Douglas and Cobb have said.

JB January 25, 2013 at 03:25 PM
@Marsi Thrash While there is some truth to your statements, if that information came without gifts, free tickets, football games, junkets to the Bahamas, it would be much better. I worked at the Capitol long enough to know that the one who greases the palm the best, gets the vote. Yet, this las does nothing about campaign donations which is the other biggggggggggg elephant in the room.
JB January 25, 2013 at 03:30 PM
Are you crazy? I doubt there was a lobbyists who saw one of our lawmakers that didn't have either a gift, ticket, trip, or donation to present (although not on Capitol grounds......)
Pete January 31, 2013 at 05:51 PM
Look, like anything else, lobbying has roots in something noble, ends up becoming abused, and in the end someone benefits by all that "relationship building" - usually the lobby-er and the lobby-ee.. "Relationship building" and "Educating" are all well and good, but the fact remains that gifts get them in the door to exert that influence, one side or the other, or many times both. Lobbying is legally accepted bribery.. Nothing more..
keith February 01, 2013 at 02:42 AM
When you bribe a cop you go to jail. The same should happen when you bribe a lawmaker. Business and politics are two different thangs. Business courts clients to make money. Lawmakers are supposed to represent the people not big business. To accept s bribe is criminal. And should be treated as such.
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