ATLANTA -- The effort to make Georgia’s government a little more transparent is not doing well at the Capitol this legislative session. Many of the bills designed to lend transparency and avoid conflicts of interest died on crossover day.
Lawmakers have introduced more than 800 bills this year-- plus hundreds more resolutions. Most are living brief, mostly forgotten lives-- especially if they are considered to be ethics bills.
"I would refer to the bills as mostly dead. So they could revived at a later time," said Sen. Josh McKoon, sponsor of several mostly-dead ethics bills.
- SB 22, a bill to disclose campaign contributions from government contractors
- SB 23, a bill to restrict lawmakers on powerful conference committees from getting state jobs afterward
- SR 24, a bill to curb unrecorded voice votes in the state senate
- SR 36, a bill to give the state ethics commission a fixed percentage of the state budget.
"They’re worried all kinds of amendments will come in to make government better," said William Perry, founder of Georgia Ethics Watchdogs. "So when their fear is openness and transparency, they’re trying to make it the least transparent they can."
Other legislators gamely introduced bills to put the state pardons and paroles board under the open records act, HB 34. Another, SR 6, would have created a nonpartisan redistricting committee, taking the politics out of drawing legislative district.
They too are likely to be quickly forgotten at the Capitol — at least for now. "Sooner or later, we’re going to make progress on these issues," predicted McKoon. "It’s just a question of when."
The Senate did pass a bill, SB 130, to study how to make public records more accessible. But that bill is mostly about government agencies accessing each others’ records more than it is about the public accessing them.