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Ethics laws, St. Pat's are focus

Legislative update

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POSTED: March 6, 2013 4:00 p.m.

The 2013 session of the General Assembly continued to push forward toward the finish line with the completion of the 27th day of session. The pace quickens, the days lengthen and pending legislation continues to grow.
As we quickly approached Crossover Day on legislative day 30, any bill originating in the House only has three session days remaining to pass through the House and to “crossover” to the Senate if it hopes to become law this year. The House of Representatives passed two bills, House Bills 142 and 143, geared toward ethics reform last week, one resolution I sponsored, a bill I co-sponsored and numerous other pieces of legislation.   
St. Patrick’s Day always is one of the most treasured and celebrated events that brings people from across our country to Savannah.  On March 1, I sponsored and got passed HR 514, which recognizes and honors the members of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade committee, Chairman Brendan Sheehan and the grand marshal of the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, James Ray. This year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Savannah will mark the 189th occasion of this annual tradition and celebration.  
I co-sponsored HB 338, which passed, 166-2, on Feb. 26 and went to the Senate for consideration. This legislation would clarify the role of arts in regard to economic development and tourism for our state. It also would create the Georgia Council for the Arts as an advisory body with nine members appointed by the governor and serving three two-year terms. These members will have experience in connection with the arts, and the goal is to advance the arts in Georgia with regard to education, tourism, community development and economic development.     
Reforming our ethics laws is one of our priorities for this session. HB 142, the ethics-reform legislation, has seen many changes this session to make sure the language conveys the intent to provide more open and greater transparency in our government. This bill passed the House, 164-4, on Feb. 25 and advanced to the Senate. This legislation would make several changes to current law, such as: restoring rule making authority to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission; greater clarity of who should be required to register as a lobbyist; reduction of the lobbyist registration fee to $25; prohibiting any drink or dinner expenditures by a lobbyist, with the exception of certain expenditures at group events, including for committees, local delegations and caucuses; and allows permissible expenditures for conferences and other yearly meetings.
Campaign contributions to state legislators or other statewide elected officials are not allowed during the legislative session. However, the current law does not require a disclosure immediately prior to session, but in December of the previous year. HB 143 passed unanimously and seeks to change the campaign disclosure requirement filing to include a report of contributions made between Jan. 1 and the beginning of each session.
The General Assembly was scheduled to continue Monday with day 28.  Please contact me with your ideas and opinions or if I can be of service to you in any way.  It is your input and common-sense ideas that develop into the best legislation and potentially become the laws of our state.
If you would like to reach me, please call me at 404-656-5099 or write me at: State Rep. Ron Stephens, 226 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334, or email me at ron.stephens@house.ga.gov.

 

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