COMMENTARY | Georgia has a host of problems to confront. Yet by limiting the gifts lobbyists can give lawmakers, many of these problems can be adequately addressed.
A year ago, Georgia state Sen. Josh McKoon of Columbus told my class that tradition was in trouble. No, he hadn't broken any ethics laws. But he did break an unwritten rule: challenging the state establishment. When he was overwhelmingly elected to succeed the popular state Sen. Seth Harp from the Columbus area, McKoon was told to be quiet and do what he was told. McKoon proved to be pretty bad at doing just that.
McKoon introduced a bill that would cap lobbyist gifts at $100, and provide a $750 cap for travels, meals, and lodgings for conferences and special engagements. He faced a lot of opposition from his own party. But Democrats and tea party activists rallied behind him. Though many speculated he would face a well-funded primary opponent in retribution for his legislation, he never did. Yet the Peach State remains only one of three states where lobbyists can give lawmakers unlimited gifts.
If Georgia wants to solve a number of forces that block reforms in so many areas, and challenge incumbents who work for special interests instead of the general interests of the state, such ethics reform laws need to be passed, and enforced. That way, the state can tackle its revenue concerns, reform education, preserve the water, make Savannah a first-rate port, and ensure that people don't fall between the cracks of the health care system.
John A. Tures is an associate professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.