Georgians want tougher ethics laws
In a couple of weeks, those winds, drummed up by those inside and outside of Atlanta calling for meaningful reform to the state's ethics laws for those who make the laws, have turned into a storm.
And the stiff wind is no longer working against McKoon and watchdog groups like Common Cause. They are pushing for limits on what lobbyists can spend on legislators as well as an ethics commission with teeth to enforce the rules, and they appear to have the wind at their backs.
"It is a much different feeling than it was in March," McKoon said Monday.
A couple of things have happened since the session ended. One, the people of Georgia have weighed in.
In July, non-binding ethics-related questions were on the Democratic and Republican primary ballots. The Republican questioned asked if voters approved a $100 limit on what lobbyists can spend on lawmakers. About 87 percent agreed.
The Democratic question was more vague, asking if voters approved any limit. It too received overwhelming support.
Of the nearly 1.2 million Georgia voters who answered either question, about 82 percent agreed with limits of some kind.
"What it tells me is Georgia voters have become educated about the practice of unlimited giving and want it to end," McKoon said.
Another win for Mc-Koon came when strong-arm Republican Don Balfour, a metro Atlanta state senator, got into hot water with the Senate Ethics Committee. Balfour was called on the carpet for issues with his per diem, the daily allowance legislators receive for conducting state business.
McKoon was on the committee that heard the complaint and authored a minority opinion that the sanctions against Balfour, who was fined $5,000 and ordered to pay restitution of about $300, were not strong enough. McKoon has stated that Balfour should be censured and removed from his powerful Senate Rules Committee chairmanship. Balfour is still in that slot, though new committee assignments have not been made.
Would McKoon like to see Balfour removed?
"I will leave it to committee for assignments," Mc-Koon said. "I suggested in my minority report that he should be removed. If he stays, we will be sending a very dangerous message."
The Rules Committee audits per diem filings.
McKoon has gotten the jump on the General Assembly session. He pre-filed a senate resolution last week. It would ask voters to change the Georgia Constitution with a set funding for the state's ethics commission. In essence, the proposal seeks to create a permanent funding source for Georgia's watchdog over lobbyists and lawmakers.
It's just another burst of wind.
Chuck Williams, senior editor for content, firstname.lastname@example.org