Ralston amends lobbyist rules proposal
by Ray Henry, Associated Press
February 07, 2013 11:50 AM | 1513 views | 1 1 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, right, speaks with Press Secretary Marshall Guest on the House Floor, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, at the State Capitol in Atlanta. Speaker Ralston introduced legislation Tuesday calling for a total prohibition on what lobbyists can spend while trying to influence legislators. Right now, lobbyists can give as many gifts as they like if they disclose their spending on lawmakers. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, right, speaks with Press Secretary Marshall Guest on the House Floor, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, at the State Capitol in Atlanta. Speaker Ralston introduced legislation Tuesday calling for a total prohibition on what lobbyists can spend while trying to influence legislators. Right now, lobbyists can give as many gifts as they like if they disclose their spending on lawmakers. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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Lobbying Slideshow
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston speaks before dropping a bill on the House Floor prohibiting lawmakers from giving gifts to lobbyists, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, at the State Capitol in Atlanta. Speaker Ralston introduced legislation Tuesday calling for a total prohibition on what lobbyists can spend while trying to influence legislators. Right now, lobbyists can give as many gifts as they like if they disclose their spending on lawmakers. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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ATLANTA — Volunteers who lobby infrequently at the Georgia Statehouse would be exempt from a proposal to tighten lobbying rules under a changed plan Thursday from a leading Republican.

House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) said he revised his proposal to make clear that people who volunteer as lobbyists for no more than five days a year will not have to pay a registration fee or report their spending. His changed bill explicitly states that people expressing personal views to public officials are not lobbyists, eliminating earlier language that raised questions.

“It was never my intent to make people pay a fee for coming down here to see their own representative or their own senator, or if they come on a limited basis,” Ralston said in an interview. “Absolutely not the intent.”

The changes were unacceptable to Common Cause Georgia, one of the groups that earlier criticized Ralston’s plan as a curb on political speech.

“They are still attempting to tax and intimidate citizens who are exercising their Constitutional right of free speech,” said William Perry, the organization’s executive director. “There is absolutely no reason why people who aren’t compensated and don’t benefit directly from legislation that passes should have to register.”

Like Perry, some tea party and other conservative activists criticized Ralston’s original plan because they said nonprofit organizations should not have to pay a fee as they seek to influence lawmakers. A Baptist leader was originally concerned that clergy who come infrequently to the Statehouse to talk with state lawmakers could have been forced to register as lobbyists.

In a change, the proposed rules would not apply to local government. Ralston’s plan would lower the annual fees lobbyists must pay from $320 to $25, a response to those who criticized him for imposing costs on nonprofits or volunteer efforts. Lobbyists must pay an additional $10 for each additional client.

“I’m not asking people to commit an end-of-life act here,” Ralston said. “I’m asking people to simply wear a badge if you’re here on a regular basis advocating for or against legislation on multiple issues. That is the heart and essence of the definition of a lobbyist.”

A House subcommittee tweaked Ralston’s bill so that paid lobbyists must still register even if they are working for less than five days.

Ralston’s bill would still prohibit lobbyists from spending money on individual public officials in state government, though there are significant exceptions. Lobbyists could still pay for meals and registration at events where entire agencies, political caucuses or legislative committees are invited. Lobbyists could pay to send public officials and their staff to functions that relate to their official duties.
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Paybacks are ....
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February 08, 2013
His "honner" Ralston is mad because he is going to lose his fancy perks and trips, so he is striking out at local officials, citizens, etc with his ridiculous lobbying bill.

He hopes to turn citizens off so he can beat the bill down and keep his perks!

Wonder if he is as vindictive with our legislators as he is being with citizens who would like to see some ethics?

This is leadership?
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