A first step by Senator David Shafer (R-Duluth) as he prepares to take the reins as President Pro Tem of the Georgia Senate is garnering praise.
“Unlimited (lobbyist) giving is an untenable situation,” said Senate President Pro Tem-elect David Shafer, R-Duluth, the chamber’s highest-ranking member.
Lobbyists under current state law can make unlimited gifts to elected officials but must disclose all spending. Lobbyists spend about $1.6 million a year, mostly on food, trips and event tickets for lawmakers.
A draft proposal now before the Senate ethics study committee would outline the new ethics parameters, including defining what a gift is — a private dinner worth more than $100, for example — and is not.
Among exemptions are memberships or subscriptions related to public office, and registration costs and “reasonable” travel expenses to attend out-of-state junkets, as long as they are related to a senator’s official duties.
The move to curb lobbyists’ gifts won immediate praise from ethics watchdogs.
“That’s leadership by example,” said Kelli Persons with the League of Women Voters of Georgia. The league is one of several groups that have pushed especially hard over the past two years to strengthen ethics laws and regulations at the Capitol.