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27 January 2012

Speaker Ralston, Pass This Ethics Bill

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

-Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, June 12, 1987

With six simple words, Ronald Reagan hastened the fall of the Soviet Union and ushered in the German reunification. Two years after President Reagan stood before the Berlin Wall and demanded Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev remove the iron curtain dividing Europe, the wall came tumbling down, ending the Cold War.

Our state of Georgia, a name which we share with the former soviet socialist republic of Georgia, has had a Berlin Wall of sorts erected at the State Capitol.

It's not a literal wall, but for those individuals seeking strong ethics laws for our great state, the barrier preventing meaningful ethics legislation from receiving Gov. Deal's signature is as real as real can be.

Earlier this week, a coalition of conservative groups sent a letter to Georgia lawmakers calling for "strong ethics and accountability from our leaders."

The letter --signed by leaders of Georgia Right to Life, the Georgia Christian Coalition, and Georgia Tea Party Patriots-- reads in part:

We as Republicans must stand-up for all of the values we know to be good and honest. The ethics of our party, and our elected officials must be above reproach.

As leaders in the conservative movement, we call on you to sign-on to the ethics reform legislation being offered by Representative Tommy Smith in the State House and Senator Josh McKoon in the State Senate.

With your support, Georgia can lead the nation in ethics and accountability, and we call on you to support this important legislation.

One would think, given strong support from the conservative base for ethics reform legislation, the proposed ethics bill would breeze through the General Assembly. Unfortunately, there is a wall keeping this from happening.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R - Blue Ridge) believes, according to news reports, the ethics laws currently on the books are enough. Other news reports say Speaker Ralston opposes limits on gifts given by lobbyists to legislators. It is even rumored that Republicans, who might normally co-sponsor ethics legislation, are withholding their support from the House ethics bill because they do not want to publicly oppose Speaker Ralston.

The reality is that in the legislature, without the support of the Speaker, a bill is effectively dead. The Speaker of the Georgia House, David Ralston, is the wall keeping meaningful ethics legislation from passing.

Absent Speaker Ralston's opposition, I have no doubt the House ethics bill sponsored by Rep. Tommy Smith would breeze through both chambers, and hit Gov. Deal's desk before the March 22nd close of registration for the Peachtree Road Race. So today, as I channel my inner Reagan, I call on Speaker Ralston to tear down the wall.

Mr. Speaker, tear down the wall you've erected that's preventing strong ethics legislation from passing.

Speaker Ralston, pass Tommy Smith's ethics bill.