Ralston’s revised version, according to news reports, would not force citizens who lobby at the Capitol to register as lobbyists — unless they did so for more than five days during a calendar year. But obviously if citizens need to visit the Gold Dome six days a year or more trying to influence legislators then the requirement for registering as lobbyists kicks in.
It’s clear from Ralston’s bill and his comments that he has a major problem with citizens visiting their Capitol — not his Capitol or the General Assembly’s — to talk with legislators about whatever issues that concern good citizens.
The Speaker spelled out his problem in explaining his original proposal that would have defined anyone volunteering services in trying to influence any elected official in the state as a lobbyist, required to register, pay a fee and file expense reports with the state ethics commission.
Ralston said he never intended to make Georgians pay a fee to visit with their own legislators “or if they come on a limited basis.”
The Speaker wants to set the limit at five days for citizens of this state to visit their Capitol and talk with their legislators about legislative issues.
That is unheard of, out of bounds, over the top and all too indicative of the disdain and annoyance with which David Ralston looks upon citizens of Georgia interested enough in their government to show up at the Capitol more than five days in a year!
Ralston did remove local officials from the bill’s ban on lobbyist gifts, but according to news reports, he said there still might be restrictions imposed on local lobbying, no details given.
He also cut the current $300 lobbyist registration fee to a mere $25.
He acknowledged he changed the bill because of criticism that it would require citizens to register as lobbyists if they went to the Capitol and tried to influence any senators or representatives other than those in their own districts.
Predictably, Ralston’s revisions to HB 142 got a unanimous vote in a subcommittee, sending it to the Rules Committee, which serves as the Speaker’s rubber stamp.
So look for it to be approved by the committee and sent to the floor where only the bravest few members dare oppose the all-powerful Speaker.
And despite Ralston’s attempt to make his poison pill palatable to the people, the revised bill is — as grassroots ethics reform advocates labeled the original measure — a “First Amendment tax.”
The good citizens of Georgia need to increase the heat on Ralston and members of the House to fix HB 142 by common sense measures, starting with a ban on lobbyist gifts to legislators – individually and collectively, period. Instead of limiting citizen rights, the Georgia House needs to put limits on the Speaker it elected.