- Georgia Senate Democrats said new ethics rules that passed today are only a meager step toward reform in government transparency and runs counter to public outcry for increased openness and fairness.
It is customary on the first day of session for the Senate to adopt rules to govern themselves. This year the rules were amended to include a $100 per gift spending cap and Republican leadership sought to limit any debate on the proposed rules through an engrossment vote. Democrats found the ethics change too minor and believe the engrossed rules has a chilling effect on meaningful dialogue on behalf of constituents.
"The state of Georgia is lost when the voices of the people are not heard," Sen. Horacena Tate, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.
Senate Democrats say the new Senate rule is riddled with loopholes and does not address public concerns for greater transparency in government.
"It is critical that elected officials listen to their constituencies in the pursuit of real ethics reform. The adoption of this Senate rule sent the wrong message and creates far too many loopholes for it be legitimate ethics reform. Democrats are prepared to step to the plate in pursuit of real reform, "said Sen. Vincent Fort caucus whip.
Senate Democrats will introduce legislation, beginning today, that will create strong ethics and clear accountability for elected officials and special interest groups.
"We must seek strong ethics legislation that will legitimize ethics enforcement and restore public confidence," said Sen. Steve Henson, leader of the Democratic Caucus.
A bill authored by Sen. Emmanuel Jones (D-Stockbridge) proposes an independent ethics commission with permanent funding. This legislation would help end cronyism and political maneuvering.
Longtime proponent of ethics reform, Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur is proposing an annual cap on gifts.
"I am proposing legislation that would place a $100 annual aggregate gift cap and does not contain the loop holes that were passed in our senate rules," Carter said.
"We must listen to the public's call for more transparency in government and advocate for a legitimate ethics process, as we fight to build a stronger Georgia," said Henson.