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Ethics obviously no priority

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POSTED: June 16, 2010 10:19 p.m.
When news of former House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s alleged affair with a lobbyist broke late last year, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle beat the drum for tougher ethics laws. In fact, you could hardly turn around without hearing a candidate for governor talking about ethics.  
So far, that talk has been cheap. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the state legislature’s much ballyhooed 2010 ethics reform bill has given the State Ethics Commission a lot more to do -- and no more money with which to do it.
“We have the same budget but we’re given twice the work,” Stacy Kalberman, the commission’s executive secretary, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Among the commission’s new tasks? Oversight for 1,000s of local candidates campaign disclosure reports -- a good idea in theory, but only if you have the people to do it properly.
Some believe that is meant to keep the Ethics Commission on a leash, meaning it can’t get too aggressive in chasing down sleazy politicians. Common Cause Georgia Director Bill Bozarth told the AJC that the “General Assembly clearly has not acted to give the Ethics Commission all the tools it needed to do a complete job.”
This isn’t a first in Georgia, where tougher laws can be ignored simply because the money to hire people to enforce them isn’t included in the budget. What’s more, we are still in troubled economic waters and money is tight.
But if one can judge the priorities of our state lawmakers by where they spend our money, it’s pretty clear ethics reform isn’t really all that high on the list.
 

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