A key Republican on Tuesday unveiled legislation that would cap lobbyist spending on gifts for state legislators. Currently, there are no limits so long as the gift is reported.
The bill from state Rep. Wendall Willard, a Sandy Springs Republican, would place a $100 cap on individual meals, trips and concert tickets that lobbyists routinely provide for legislators at the state Capitol. It has bipartisan support.
Georgia legislators are under pressure to act on ethics this session in the wake of a scandal that brought down former House Speaker Glenn Richardson, who stepped down Jan. 1 after allegations of an affair with a utility lobbyist.
Willard is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee that covers non-criminal matters. His bill would also create a one-year "cooling off" period for top executive branch staff, similar to the one that governs the conduct of state legislators who leave office. It would require that they wait a year after leaving state government before being permitted to lobby state officials.
And the bill would also cap at $10,000 the amount of money that state officials may transfer from their campaign coffers.
"These really are commonsense proposals," Willard said.
The bill has the backing of the good government group Common Cause Georgia and has Democratic support.
A separate Democratic bill, sponsored by state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver of Decatur, would place lobbyist gift limits of $25.
Willard said Thursday he is seeking co-sponsors before formally introducing the bill today.
Ethics is a hot topic at the state Capitol this session following the Richardson saga late last year. Lawmakers are working to restore public trust before they face voters at the ballot box in November.
David Ralston, the Blue Ridge Republican who took over as House Speaker on Monday, has pledged more openness and transparency in the way the House conducts its business. But that didn't stop the House Republican caucus from closing its meeting Tuesday morning to the media and other outsiders.