Ralston amends Georgia lobbying rules proposal

BY RAY HENRY ASSOCIATED PRESS ATLANTA (AP) – Activists and volunteers who lobby infrequently at the Georgia Statehouse would be exempt from a proposal to tighten lobbying rules under a changed plan Thursday from a leading Republican. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said he revised his proposal to make clear that people who get paid or volunteer as lobbyists for no more than five days a year will not have to pay a registration fee or report their spending. His changed bill explicitly states that people expressing personal views to public officials are not lobbyists, eliminating earlier language that raised questions.
"It was never my intent to make people pay a fee for coming down here to see their own representative or their own senator, or if they come on a limited basis," Ralston said in an interview. "Absolutely not the intent." The changes were unacceptable to Common Cause Georgia, one of the groups that earlier criticized Ralston's plan as a curb on political speech. "They are still attempting to tax and intimidate citizens who are exercising their Constitutional right of free speech," said William Perry, the organization's executive director. "There is absolutely no reason why people who aren't compensated and don't benefit directly from legislation that passes should have to register." Like Perry, some tea party and other conservative activists criticized Ralston's original plan because they said nonprofit organizations should not have to pay a fee as they seek to influence lawmakers. A Baptist leader was concerned that clergy who come infrequently to the Statehouse to talk with state lawmakers could have been forced to register as lobbyists. In a change, the proposed rules would not apply to local government. Ralston's plan would lower the lobbyist registration fee from $300 to $25, a response to those who criticized him for imposing costs on nonprofits or volunteer efforts. "I'm not asking people to commit an end-of-life act here," Ralston said. "I'm asking people to simply wear a badge if you're here on a regular basis advocating for or against legislation on multiple issues. That is the heart and essence of the definition of a lobbyist." A House subcommittee planned to review Ralston's new plan during a meeting Thursday afternoon. Ralston's bill would still prohibit lobbyists from spending money on individual public officials in state government, though there are significant exceptions. Lobbyists could still pay for meals and registration at events where entire agencies, political caucuses or legislative committees are invited. Lobbyists could still pay to send public officials and their staff to functions that relate to their official duties. --- Follow Ray Henry on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rhenryAP . © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


More Local

Cheek to head state school facilities association

Coweta County School System Director of Facilities Ronnie Cheek has been named president of the Georgia Association of School Facility Admin ... Read More


Bullying in Coweta County: A victim’s story

Twelve-year-old Jennifer Jarvis knows first-hand the effects of bullying. Jarvis claims she has been bullied since the first days of element ... Read More


US citizenship requires test...and a long wait

So what does it take to become a naturalized U.S. citizen? There are different eligibility requirements for different categories of immigran ... Read More


Video series depicts Battle of Brown’s Mill

Visitor’s to the Brown’s Mill Battlefield, and those around the world interested in the battle, can now view seven videos about ... Read More


Veterans to be honored at Christmas parade

Newnan’s hometown heroes will be grand marshals for this year’s Christmas parade. The parade will be Saturday, Dec. 13, beginnin ... Read More

WASA to issue up to $19.4 million in bonds

The Coweta County Water and Sewer Authority will be issuing some $19.4 million in bonds, which will be used to pay off bonds that were issue ... Read More