Ga. lawmakers gather for revamped Wild Hog Supper

by CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY, Associated Press

alt

Bert Skellie, of Decatur, Ga., protests for Medicaid expansion outside the Wild Hog Supper, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, in Atlanta. The unofficial start to the 2014 legislative session known as the Wild Hog Supper features the same group of Georgia politicians and lobbyists as previous years, but it has a more transparent tone this year. An estimated 1,000 people attended Sunday night's event, which is in its 52nd year. Previously, it wasn't always clear who was paying for what at the event. With the General Assembly passing major ethics reforms last year, officials suggested an overhaul of the Wild Hog Supper, too. Now, the Georgia Food Bank Association is organizing the event. Attendees paid $20 a person and were asked to bring a canned food item for donation. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

ATLANTA (AP) — The unofficial start to the 2014 legislative session known as the Wild Hog Supper featured the same group of Georgia politicians and lobbyists, but a different tone after the event was overhauled this year to be more transparent and benefit the needy.

An estimated 1,000 people attended Sunday night's event, which is in its 52nd year. Previously, it wasn't always clear who was paying for what at the event, conveying an image of lobbyists putting on a big feast for politicians less than 24 hours before the session begins.

With the General Assembly passing major ethics reforms last year, officials suggested an overhaul of the event. Now, the Georgia Food Bank Association is organizing the Wild Hog Supper and detailing all the sponsors, which included Georgia EMC, the Georgia Restaurant Association and the Georgia Poultry Federation among others.

And for the first time, lawmakers had to pay to get in — $20 per ticket plus a canned food item for donation.

State Sen. John McKoon, R-Columbus, said the changes allow lawmakers to gather for fellowship "without the stench of potential corruption." McKoon said he used campaign funds to purchase 25 tickets for himself and constituents to the event at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot near the Capitol.

"An event like this can raise money, can raise food and can raise consciousness," said Bill Bolling with the Georgia Food Bank Association. "There was not a lot of transparency in the past."

Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said he reached out the Georgia Food Bank Association and asked them to coordinate the event, which had previously been a joint effort of the department and a special nonprofit formed just for the dinner.

"Here's something that everybody could support," Black said. "And what better message can we say at the beginning of the General Assembly, for us all to come together for a unifying cause, and that's to help people."

Gathered outside was a small group of protestors, who were signaling the start of the "Moral Monday" movement in Georgia, which aims to put pressure on Gov. Nathan Deal to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law. Deal has said the state can't afford the expansion.

The effort includes various advocacy groups and the Georgia NAACP, and is modeled after a group in North Carolina. Demonstrators there were arrested weekly last year.

"If you are eating tonight and enjoying yourself, think about those 600,000 Georgians without health insurance," the Rev. Tim McDonald said into a bullhorn toward the line of lawmakers waiting to get into the dinner.



More Local

Perdue beats Kingston; recount likely in school superintendent race

Businessman David Perdue beat long-time Congressman Jack Kingston in Tuesday's runoff for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. The t ... Read More


Church Day shows off rich Coweta history

The churches of Coweta County got their day to share their rich history on the Court Square in downtown Newnan on Saturday. More than 20 chu ... Read More


Senoia’s zombie wall may remain for years

A portion of a Senoia residential development might be a “closed set” for the next several years. On Monday, representatives fro ... Read More


Meat processing center destroyed by flames

A commercial building between the Arnco and Sargent communities in western Coweta County was destroyed by a fire early Monday. Around 4 a.m. ... Read More


Sheriff's employee Ayers in coma

A longtime employee of the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office who was diagnosed with a serious disease last year took a turn for the worse ... Read More

‘Window into Past’ tours at Brown’s Mill Saturday

Tickets are available to tour the Battle of Brown’s Mill battlefield Saturday for displays making up “A Window into the Past.&rd ... Read More