Rule 171.9 Muzzles Representatives
Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, February 8, 2013 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler
Good morning, Jim. Since some legislators say they are entitled to unlimited gifts because they spend so much to get elected, last year’s ethics bill was dead-on-arrival. Now, the Georgia House of Representatives has adopted a rule that limits participation in the legislative process for citizens that do not register for a lobby badge to wear at the capitol and legislative office building. Currently, professional lobbyists must register, but volunteers don’t have to.
House Rule 171.9 restricts the freedom of speech in a back-handed way. We’re told we can discuss legislation with any representative, and that’s technically true, but there’s a back side to that. While we’re free to talk to them, House Rule 171.9 prohibits representatives from discussing issues with anyone who does not live within his House district, unless that person is wearing a lobby badge.
So, anyone can talk to or at a legislator till both are blue in the face, but House Rules prohibit representatives from responding or discussing or initiating a discussion about political issues with anyone who is not wearing a lobbyist badge. That’s a two-edged sword. It curtails the representatives’ freedom of speech and, by doing so, shuts down public input.On January 14th, the book on Rules, Ethics and Decorum of the House of Representatives, for the Year 2013 was adopted with the passage of H.R. 9. If you’re interested in seeing those documents, all three – the House Rules, H.R. 9 and the H.R. 9 roll-call vote – are available online or through the Clerk’s Office at the capitol.
While Rule 171.9 unconstitutionally restricts the freedom of speech guaranteed by the U.S Constitution and the Georgia Constitution, it pales when compared to H.B. 142 introduced January 30th by Speaker Ralston and five of the most powerful representatives in the House.
H.B. 142 is an incredibly oppressive, unconstitutional effort to STOP citizen influence on every level of state and local government. If it passes, freedom to talk about issues with state and local officials will be gone and citizens who register would be legally bound to report their every political action to the Ethics Committee. Those reports would have to itemize every flyer, every newsletter, every letter to the editor, every contact made and every dollar spent on gas to enable their political participation.
Call House Rules Chairman Representative John Meadows at 404 656-5141 and ask him to STOP H.B. 142. It is totally un-American and, by the way, Representative Meadows voted FOR Rule 171.9. For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.