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Will We Finally Have Ethics Reform in Georgia?

The 40 days of the next General Assembly session will not be boring.

As we turn the calendar to 2013, we leave behind a year of successes and failures. It is easy to begin listing the failures, but I refuse to invest my time in the negative. Rather than dealing in the past, let us look forward into the future in our state of Georgia. On the second Monday of January, the Georgia General Assembly will open for the 40-day legislative session. There are some new people in places of leadership under the Gold Dome. It is felt by some people this will be positive in terms of moving legislation that is needed to help make our state stronger in ethics reform and care for those who need a voice.

Without making sweeping statements about former or even current leaders, I choose to deal with issues. When this session begins, I will start my 10th year advocating for moral right as I represent the positions of the leadership of the Georgia Baptist Convention at the Capitol. These years have been a learning process for me. There are some people who are certain that every person elected to serve in government service is corrupt. I have not found that to be true. There are people who believe the best way to bring about public policy change is to make the elected officials mad and make insulting remarks like they are “low down pond scum.” I do not work from that point of view.

I do believe we are long overdue for real enforceable ethics reform in our state. In each of the nine previous years, I have sought to work with others seeking ethics reform to bring about change that will affect and impact the way the people’s business is conducted through public policy at the Capitol in Atlanta. Midway through the last session of the General Assembly, I began to see what I believe is evidence that in this session we will see real ethics reform. I don’t want to become too optimistic, but I do believe we are closer to making changes in the behavior of lobbyists and legislators than we have seen in the nine previous years.

The issue of immigration and what we are going to do about finding those who are in our country illegally is still an issue that must somehow be addressed.

We are going to be dealing with social issues with the expansion of gambling in this next session it seems. There is a Senate study committee seeking information to be able to develop legislation to expand gambling with horse racing and pari-mutuel gambling. There is already a pre-filed bill in the House of Representatives calling for the expansion of gambling in Georgia. As in the past, I will oppose that legislation because I see this as another way of expanding the state being a predator on the citizens of our state.

From where I stand, in these 40 days of the General Assembly I will not be bored.

Follow Ray Newman on Twitter @RayNewmanSr

Pam J January 07, 2013 at 12:47 AM
While I agree that we should let the past be the past and that are some good politicians, I disagree about the gambling thing. If you oppose gambling in the state because you believe it will be a "predator of the state", you are, in essence, setting yourself up as a babysitter. As adults, we have the right to make our own decisions with our money. If somebody wants to gamble all their money away, that is their business. If you oppose gambling, what you are saying is "I don't want it because I don't want you to spend your money any way you want". Then set the welfare rules up to deny welfare to people who have lost their money through gambling.
Richard "the Equalizer" Pellegrino January 07, 2013 at 05:13 AM
Yes...yes...yes..I agree.we need wholesale ethics reform at the State Capitol (we are ranked as the most politically corrupt state in the nation and reading this excellent article and expose one can understand why: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/ethics/nTnwX/ ). And not just a cap on lobbyist gifts, though that is a start, but many more reforms as outlined in the article.
Richard "the Equalizer" Pellegrino January 07, 2013 at 05:23 AM
I must say though Mr Newman...I was perplexed at the wording of your statement regarding immigrants. As a representative of the Baptist Convention I would trust that your opinions regarding this issue are guided by the Bible, where it clearly states that the only one should seek out the immigrants is to welcome and help them. An excerpt from my recent blog here on What Would Jesus do (full article at http://northeastcobb.patch.com/blog_posts/wwjd-revisited-at-christmas-time-06a32dbe ) : 4) When we consider immigrants, did not Jesus say, speaking about the Gentiles (who were the foreigners and “illegal immigrants” of the time), that they were no longer to be treated as foreigners or strangers but as fellow citizens with God’s people? (Ephesians 2:11-21; Hebrews 13:2; Matthew 25:40) (Pointing the way to forgiveness and amnesty as part of a Comprehensive Immigration Reform.) And of course , Leviticus 19: 33-34. "When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God."
electric123 January 07, 2013 at 05:52 AM
Richard, This should of been done along time ago with any ethics issues with gifts, monies, etc with politicians. Like when or around the same time in the legal community set up ethics in the 1800's which was the founding path of the American Bar Association under a Chief Judge in Alabama!
electric123 January 07, 2013 at 06:17 AM
Richard, these so called representatives of Baptist convention are the biggest hypocrites walking the earth! Bible Thumpers as we call them, then right after church they are at happy hours sucking down Bloody Mary's by the gallon! Just keep doing what you are doing monitoring the Cobb Money machine with their 287(g) nonsense with Neil Warren, I am in your corner on any issues against Cobb County.
electric123 January 07, 2013 at 10:30 AM
That is why I keep my faith and belief to myself. I have had all kinds in my life whether in Florida, GA or TN or wherever I have lived and the general consensus of the public stay away from the Christianity movement because why should they get into something that is based on hypocrisy? And the basic view of the churches are membership and collecting the 10% tithing and why last year a new movement of home-based churches were rising up in California and the churches in California and states out west were crying fowl because they weren't receiving the 10% because churches no longer are viewed as house of worship but a business.
Pete January 07, 2013 at 03:07 PM
Lets be clear :"Ethics" has nothing to do with religion when it comes to government, it has to do with doing what is right for the majority of all taxpaying citizens, not the individual group. "Ethics" is doing the right thing for the taxpaying citizens without individual gain or promise of reward, be it votes, donations, funding or what ever it might be - blackmail is illegal yet saying "vote this way or else" is not? We either need the elimination of all lobbyist and special interests donors, fundraising and other "bribery" (of which I feel faith bases groups fall into this category - but so does any ethnic, immegration or sexual orientation group), or complete reform. I am sorry, but we should be on equal footing in this day and age. The problem is all of these groups have infiltrated government and exert pressure to promote their agendas, at the expense of everyone.. "TAX PAYING Citizens" should be the beneficiary, not the lobbyists... I get it, we are a melting pot and all, but why should someone here illegally not paying taxes have a say towards how my money is spent? If I am not gay, why should I care if they have civil unions recognized, as long as it doesn't cost me? If I don't attend a baptist church, why should they be able to steer government policies that affect how my tax dollars are spent? Seriously... That is our problem, and we let it rule not only our state, but our country..
Richard "the Equalizer" Pellegrino January 08, 2013 at 11:38 PM
I am not sure what you mean by your first statement--but I agree that everyone should play by the rules without favoritism--and that that applies to any special interest group, including mine. But to think that any non-profit or advocacy group has equal clout with business lobbies is a far fetch. And, in the interest of honesty and ethics....all independent reviews and audits of undocumented immigrant populations, performed by States, the IRS, Social Security and non-partisan think tanks, conclude that they pay in millions of taxes (including income and ss taxes), way more than they receive in services, which actually helps keep our economy afloat. So "not paying taxes" is a myth used to characterize undocumented immigrants by those with other and nefarious motives. Let's not perpetuate that myth. Also, how they got here, especially in Georgia, is another story that most of their opponents don't want to admit, however let's say that our state and Federal govt, many businesses, and, by default, most Americans, invited them here...and I have documented proof of that. Now, that our economy has tanked, we want to find someone to scapegoat, and they are the easy target. Thank God that reasonable people on both sides of the aisle, at least federally, now want to give them a path to legal status.

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