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Governor Perdue Introduces The Ethics Reform Act of 2003 To Georgia Senate

Monday, January 27, 2003  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774


First Part of Comprehensive Ethics Reform Initiative Offers Guidance to Legislators Regarding Conduct, Sets Tone For Ethics Commission

Atlanta - Governor Sonny Perdue today introduced the first of four legislative bills comprising the Ethics Reform Act of 2003 (Act) to Georgia's Senate. The Ethics Reform Act of 2003 represents the most comprehensive ethics legislation ever introduced in Georgia.

The Act's first bill provides specific proposals regarding (1) candidate-to-candidate transfer, (2) influencing the Board of Pardons and Paroles and the Department of Corrections, (3) solicitation of funds during legislative session and (4) structure of the state's Ethics Commission.

The bill will be jointly authored by Georgia State Senators Bill Stephens (R- Canton) and Daniel Lee (R- LaGrange), Governor Perdue's Senate floor leaders. The bill will be assigned to the Georgia Senate's Ethics Committee, chaired by Senator Mike Crotts (R- Conyers).

"Many times I've stated that trust must be earned, that trust is a two-way street. I want all Georgians to trust in their government. The Ethics Reform Act of 2003 signals the start of real ethics reform in Georgia. This comprehensive legislative package sets the tone for operating a government that Georgians can and will believe in," said Governor Sonny Perdue.

"As a steward of the public's trust, I began my service as Georgia's Governor by issuing an executive order that set forth high standards of ethical conduct for my administration. Today, I am pleased to present the first of a series of legislative bills that sets the stage to permanently extend these high ethical standards to all areas of state government."

The Governor's inaugural ethics bill targets four areas outlined during his first week in office.

(1) Candidate-to-Candidate Contributions - This legislation will prohibit candidates from transferring funds to another candidate or any candidate's committee.

The proposed legislation also prohibits candidates, campaign committees or elected officials from loaning their campaign contributions (or any proceeds from investing such contributions) to any other person, party, body, organization, association, campaign committee, candidate or other entity. Seventeen other states already have similar legislation in place.

(2) Limiting Legislators Contact With The State's Board Of Pardons And Paroles & Department Of Corrections - This legislation prohibits members of Georgia's General Assembly or any state elected or appointed official from appearing before or communicating with the Department of Corrections or the Board of Pardons and Paroles to advocate for a decision regarding a particular inmate.

The proposed legislation provides an exception for instances in which the official forwards communications or correspondence from third parties to the Department of Corrections or the Board of Pardons and Paroles, so long as the communications or correspondence are sent in substantially the same form as they were received.

Members of the General Assembly may continue to appear before Department of Corrections or the Board of Pardons and Paroles as required by their official duties and may also request information from the Department of Corrections and Board of Pardons and Paroles.

(3) Solicitation Of Contributions During Legislative Sessions - Although current Georgia law prohibits accepting contributions during the legislative session, this legislation seeks to extend these guidelines.

Specifically, the proposed legislation prohibits members of the General Assembly, public officers elected statewide, and campaign committees of such members and officers from soliciting campaign contributions or pledges of campaign contributions during the legislative session.

(4) Ethics Commission Structure - As outlined in current Georgia law, the Governor may appoint three members, the Lieutenant Governor may appoint one member and the Speaker of the House may appoint one member of the Ethics Commission (Commission).

The proposed legislation would end the terms of existing Commission members on July 1, 2003. After that date, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House may reappoint members or appoint new members to the Commission.

This legislation includes a new provision regarding recusal of Commission members. If a Commission member contributed in the current or immediately preceding election cycle to any respondent, any other party to the complaint, any candidate who opposed the respondent in any election in the current or immediately preceding election cycle, that Commission member is required to recuse himself or herself from consideration of the matter.

Perdue Challenges Legislators To Act Now

"Last night during my first State of the State Address, I called on Georgia legislators to pass this and forthcoming ethics bills swiftly and decisively. The bill presented today represents the first in a series of reforms needed to restore faith in government for all Georgians.

I look forward to their partnership and support as we work together to continue to change the culture of our state government to one that is principle-centered and dedicated to earning our citizens' trust every day," concluded Perdue.

The Governor plans to introduce the remaining three parts of the Ethics Reform Act of 2003 during the remaining weeks of the legislative session.