February 15, 2013 Newsletter-Legislative Action Needed

House Rule 171.9
Without a Lobbyist Badge, Discussion
is Limited at the Capitol & CLOB

Rule 171.9 is not about crime and punishment for representatives or staff. It’s about limiting the constitutional freedom of speech for representatives and visitors at the Capitol and Coverdell Legislative Office Building. Rule 171.9 is as follows:

Rule 171.9. “No member of the House shall knowingly meet at the state capitol or Coverdell Office Building with any person who is required by the law of this State to register as a lobbyist to discuss the promotion or opposition of the passage of any legislation by the General Assembly or any committee thereof or the override of a veto unless such person either is wearing his or her valid special registered lobbyist badge or is a resident of the House district which such member represents.”

Although Rule 171.9 does not prohibit citizens from speaking with representatives, it forbids communication FROM representatives TO individuals who are not wearing a lobby badge … unless the individual and the representative live in the same district. Until now, individuals and representatives could freely communicate with each other and discuss political issues, with or without a lobbyist badge, regardless of where the individuals and representatives live.

On January 14th the Georgia House of Representatives passed H.R. 9, adopting its 52-page Rules, Ethics and Decorum for 2013, with 13 changes from 2012. Five rules from 2012 were deleted; seven amended; and a new one implemented – Rule 171.9, that made lobbyist badges mandatory, caused backlash from non-professionals who try to influence issues at the Capitol.

Rule 171.9 is listed under responsibilities of the seven Republicans and four Democrats on the House Ethics Committee1. Of those seven, four – the Majority Leader, the Minority Leader, the Majority Whip and the Minority Whip – comprise the preliminary inquiry subcommittee that first investigates reported ethical violations.

To expand an investigation, the subcommittee may retain paid or unpaid counsel and/or investigators, which the accused may do, likewise. In addition, the accused may cross examine accusers and obtain documents and materials offered in evidence. Representatives found guilty may be fined, censured or imprisoned or expelled. Expulsion requires a two-thirds House vote.

H.R. 9, implementing the new Rules, Ethics and Decorum of the House of Representatives for 2013, passed 118-57, revealing an almost total lock-step commitment to party. One Democrat and a lone Independent joined Republicans to pass it; two Democrats and a Republican failed to vote; and the two vacant seats in the House counted as failures to vote.

ACTION: To express your opinion about Rule 171.9 (a) call Speaker Ralston’s office at 404 656-5020.
b) Also, call Ethics Committee members:
Representatives Joe Wilkinson, Ch., 404 463-8143; Abrams, 404 656-5058; Buckner, 404 656-0116; Floyd, 404 656-0314; Hugley, 404 656-5058; Jan Jones, 404 656-5072; Lindsey, 404 656-5024; O’Neal, 404 656-5052; Ramsey, 404 656-5146; Sheldon, 404 656-5025;
Willard, 404 656-5125

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