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State group plans rallies on ethics
A bipartisan group of state legislators and citizen groups pushing for limiting the number of freebies that can be offered to and accepted by Georgia's elected officials will rally in Brunswick later this month.

The rally is part of a four-day statewide bus tour dubbed the Ethics Express with scheduled stops in 13 cities, including Brunswick. No date for its visit here has been released.

The tour will begin July 24 in Atlanta and end July 27 in Athens and include stops in Gainesville, Blue Ridge, Dalton, Macon, Columbus, Albany, Valdosta, Waycross, Savannah and Augusta.

Advocates, who call themselves the Gift Cap Pledge Alliance, are asking Georgians to support the movement by voting yes to this question: Do you support ending the current practice of unlimited gifts from lobbyists to state legislators by imposing a $100 cap on such?

"I am delighted to have this opportunity to join with leaders from across our state to highlight the chance voters have to send a message to the General Assembly that the time of unlimited gift giving is at an end," said Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus.

McKoon, up for re-election this year, is one of the first of 130 legislative candidates to pledge to put a stop to unlimited lobbyist spending on gifts to legislators.

"This new phase of the campaign to bring about ethics reform will allow ordinary Georgians from Dalton to Valdosta and from Columbus to Savannah to have their say on this critically important issue," he said.

The nonbinding vote is one of a handful of questions on the Republican and Democratic ballots.

In addition to McKoon, the tour will include William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia; Julianne Thompson, Georgia Tea Party Patriots; Debbie Dooley, Georgia Tea Party Patriots; and Kay Godwin, Georgia Conservatives in Action.

Georgia is one of only three states that does not limit gifts from lobbyists to legislators.

Rep. Alex Atwood, R-St. Simons Island, who will begin another two-year term of office in January, said be believes any proposed ethics legislation should not only strongly enforce ethical behavior among government officials, but also the appearance of high ethical standards.

"In addition, ethical reporting requirements should not only be detailed but also transparent and open to the public so that citizens will know what their elected representatives are doing," Atwood said.

"I will listen to my constitutes on this issue as they consider the ethics reform initiative that is currently pending before the voters, and will favorably consider ethics legislation that successfully accomplishes these goals."

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