Many people feel that government is excessive, unresponsive, and corrupt. The worst part is that they feel powerless to do anything about it. Last week, we saw the downfall of the Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, Glenn Richardson, amid a wave of scandal that threatens to shake the Georgia Republican Party to its core. Serious allegations were made that the Speaker had an affair with a lobbyist who was pushing legislation that ultimately could have cost the taxpayers of Georgia millions of dollars.
In fairness, political corruption is most often attributed to one party: the majority party. It seems that no matter who is in control, Democrats or Republicans, the power corrupts. But now is the time to do something about it. And that something is to give the people the tools they need to fight corruption effectively.
Earlier this year, as well as in previous sessions, I introduced a piece of legislation that could put an end to corruption once and for all. HR 75 empowers the state attorney general to empanel a statewide grand jury to investigate corruption in any branch and at any level of state and local government.
Does the state already have the means to fight criminal behavior by government officials? Yes. But most cases of government corruption aren’t technically criminal in nature, at least in the statutory sense. A legislator’s inappropriate relationship with a lobbyist, for instance, would be a prime example — not a crime, but very definitely corrupt.
As elected officials, we have a duty to live up to our oaths of office. But too often we haven’t been effective at policing ourselves. That’s why we all need HR 75. Citizen jurors would be able to hear evidence, and take action. Unlike the State Ethics Commission, a grand jury would have subpoena power to gather evidence on a case, and could hand down an indictment if they find corruption. It’s real power, in the hands of the people.
With HR 75, Georgians can finally start holding government officials accountable and achieve the honest, responsive government they want and deserve.
Written by Austin Scott. State Rep Austin Scott (R-Tifton) is the only Republican member of the State House of Representatives that is running for governor.