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Group discusses ethics reform for Ga.
Two years ago, state lawmakers tried to get the General Assembly to pass government ethics reform legislation. Nobody wanted to discuss the issue.

But thanks to ballot questions asked during primary elections in July, the time is ripe to raise the issue again.

Members of the Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform held a meeting in Brunswick on Tuesday to discuss proposed legislation that will be considered when the General Assembly session begins in January.

The group pushing for reform includes representatives from both political parties, as well as organizations such as Common Cause Georgia, Georgia Tea Party Patriots and Georgia Conservatives in Action.

Kay Godwin, co-chair of Georgia Conservatives in Action, said ethics reform is an issue everyone can support.

"This is not a liberal or conservative issue," she said. "This is good government."

William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said 87 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Democrats supported ethics reform on separate ballot questions this year. The support makes it impossible for state legislators to ignore the issue.

"The numbers were overwhelming," he said. "All of a sudden, after two years of fighting, you have incumbents and newly elected officials saying they will introduce legislation."

The proposed legislation will limit the amount a lobbyist can give to $100 a day. But Perry said a final draft of the proposed bill won't be drafted until a series of public meetings across the state are completed.

Other issues that will be considered include nepotism, defining conflicts of interest, staffing and funding for ethics enforcement.

State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, said the legislation is important because Georgia is one of three states with no limits on financial gifts that can be given to public officials.

If a lobbyist wants to give a public official a new car, a trip to Europe or a round of golf at Pebble Beach, there is nothing to prevent that from happening, McKoon said.

"We wanted to get Georgia out of the Wild West situation," he said. "As long as it's claimed, they can accept any gift."



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