May 24, 2013 Radio Commentary

Lobby Bill De-Fanged

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, May 24, 2013 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

Good morning, Jim.  For some reason, this year’s legislative session was, especially, disturbing for volunteers who go to the state capitol to influence bills and resolutions that may become law and affect the way we live.  But, this year, the problem started with House Rule 171.9 that said representatives could not discuss issues with any person that was NOT wearing a $320 lobby badge … UNLESS that person lived in that representative’s district.

House Rule 171.9 became part of the House rules of order January 14th, the first day of the session.  From that day on, freedom of speech was curtailed for representatives, as well as volunteers, and both were denied free participation in our republican form of government.

But 16 days later, House Speaker Ralston introduced H.B. 142 as an ethics bill limiting gifts to legislators, but also requiring EVERY lobbyist – volunteer or professional – to buy that $320 badge and file periodic reports of expenditures to public officials or face whopping fines for late reports.  Continue reading

March 15, 2013 Radio Commentary

Call to keep H.B. 142 in committee!
Cheaper, but Still Unconstitutional

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, March 15, 2013 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

Good morning, Jim. What started out to be a bill limiting gifts from lobbyists to legislators has become a limit to the constitutional rights of folks the bill calls “any natural person.” On January 30th House Speaker Ralston and five other House leaders introduced H.B. 142 requiring all “natural persons” to register and buy a lobbyist badge or they could discuss issues ONLY with their own elected officials and even that was limited to no more than five days per year! Also, those required to register must wear their lobbyist badge to meet at the capitol, legislative office building or other government building. Ironically, this bill prohibits taxpayers from meeting in buildings that are built, supported and maintained by their taxes.

And there’s more. A registered person who lobbies for or against a bill, an ordinance or resolution or tries to influence a legislator or House or Senate committee or the governor or any other elected official in the state, must file disclosure reports of expenditures for printed material, postage or motor fuel used for political purposes and report the name of the person or entity they lobby. Obviously, this is a big-time invasion of privacy, that, also, puts unconstitutional restraints on a natural person’s freedoms of speech and association.

While H.B. 142 reduces the registration fee from $300 to $25, it charges fines for filing late reports. Remember, we’re talking about natural persons that are not paid to lobby, do not have expense accounts to shower legislators with gifts or treat them to breakfast, lunch or dinner. If that natural person, registers so he can talk politics only five days a year to officials he can’t vote for, and is late turning in an expense report every two weeks during the session, he could be fined $275 immediately; another $1,000 if he’s seven days late; and $10,000 on the 21st late day. If the lobbying targets municipalities or school districts, expenditure reports must be sent to them, as well.

H.B. 142 passed the House 164-4 on February 25th and is in the Senate Rules Committee. Please call Senator Mullis at 404 656-0057* and ask him to stop H.B. 142. It’s an invasion of privacy and an unconstitutional restriction on our freedoms of speech and association. For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.

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

  • To read the rest of this newsletter in PDF format, please click here.

February 8, 2013 Radio Commentary

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. Continue reading