Will We Finally Have Ethics Reform in Georgia?

The 40 days of the next General Assembly session will not be boring.

By Ray Newman

As we turn the calendar to 2013, we leave behind a year of successes and failures. It is easy to begin listing the failures, but I refuse to invest my time in being negative. Rather than dealing in the past, let us look forward into the future in our state of Georgia. On the second Monday of January, the Georgia General Assembly will open for the 40-day legislative session. There are some new people in places of leadership under the Gold Dome. It is felt by some people this will be positive in terms of moving legislation that is needed to help make our state stronger in ethics reform and care for those who need a voice.

Without making sweeping statements about former or even current leaders, I choose to deal with issues. When this session begins, I will start my 10th year advocating for moral right as I represent the positions of the leadership of the Georgia Baptist Convention at the Capitol. These years have been a learning process for me. There are some people who are certain that every person elected to serve in government service is corrupt. I have not found that to be true. There are people who believe the best way to bring about public policy change is to make the elected officials mad and make insulting remarks like they are “low down pond scum.” I do not work from that point of view.

I do believe we are long overdue for real enforceable ethics reform in our state. In each of the nine previous years, I have sought to work with others seeking ethics reform to bring about change that will affect and impact the way the people’s business is conducted through public policy at the Capitol in Atlanta. Midway through the last session of the General Assembly, I began to see what I believe is evidence that in this session we will see real ethics reform. I don’t want to become too optimistic, but I do believe we are closer to making changes in the behavior of lobbyists and legislators than we have seen in the nine previous years.

The issue of immigration and what we are going to do about finding those who are in our country illegally is still an issue that must somehow be addressed.

We are going to be dealing with social issues with the expansion of gambling in this next session it seems. There is a Senate study committee seeking information to be able to develop legislation to expand gambling with horse racing and pari-mutuel gambling. There is already a pre-filed bill in the House of Representatives calling for the expansion of gambling in Georgia. As in the past, I will oppose that legislation because I see this as another way of expanding the state being a predator on the citizens of our state.

From where I stand, in these 40 days of the General Assembly I will not be bored.


Ray Newman is a columnist and the founder of the Georgia Citizen Action Project. He can be reached at hnewmansr@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @RayNewmanSr

What will real ethics reform in Georgia look like? Tell us in the comments.

About this column: The Midtown Patch Question of the Day is an occasional column that features local, state or national news that we want to get Midtown Patch reader's take on.

Just World January 07, 2013 at 12:50 PM
Ethics reform is one thing. Focussing on "social issues" is quite another. Georgia legislators have squandered legislative time, year after year, focussed on limiting women's right to choose, restricting stem cell research, forcing Christian prayer in public schools,and preventing same-sex couples from gaining the same responsibilities and legal protections of civil marriage readily granted to opposite-sex couples. So with respect, Representative Newman, please focus on the real social injustices in Georgia - especially on child poverty and hunger. As you know, the 2012 Kids Count Data Book released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation revealed Georgia to rank 37th in terms of child well-being. Indeed, according to the Casey report, in 2011, a staggering 26 percent of children in Georgia were living in poverty. That's more than one out of four children! Things weren't much better in 2007, when 20 percent of children in Georgia were living in poverty. Shame on Georgia legislators for starving the social programs that would help lift these children and their families from poverty and hunger.


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