House Speaker David Ralston wasn’t a fan of eliminating gifts from lobbyists. Instead, he liked the current system that involved disclosure, claiming that proponents of the cap was motivated by liberals and the media. However, after last months question on the ballot – and there was a variant on both parties’ ballot – it became clear that it was something the people of Georgia wanted. Now, Ralston is backtracking from that position and says the General Assembly will vote on the eliminating all gifts when it reconvenes in early next year.
Ralston told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he felt the proposed cap on gifts at $100 would do little overall, so he hopes to ban the practice completely. “I have always said while I believe the current system is a good system because it does provide information and it’s open and transparent that if we didn’t have that system then a prohibition would be better than a cap, and I haven’t changed my mind,” Ralston told the AJC.
The shift from Ralston comes after 87 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Democrats voted for the cap.
Whether or not there will be a cap or a ban still remains to be seen. Ralston says he will put together a study group to see how other states handle gift bans, but there is still no promise that other members of the assembly will support the outright ban. Some believe that Ralston’s proposal is actually designed to create contention between those who argue for an outright ban and those who want the cap, and thereby prevent either from passing.
Lobbyist Jet Toney, who is also chairman of the Georgia Professional Lobbyists Association, told the AJC that his members are split on the cap, some believing it will level the playing field while others feel it would impact their efforts.
Toney, however, doesn’t appear to be in the first camp. “As a businessman with a payroll, with long-standing clients, as a taxpaying business, I don’t personally want to see any restrictions on the ability of my firm to use every legal means that we have to deliver our clients’ message,” he said.
The General Assembly will reconvene in January.