Hamrick: Notes from the Georgia Senate

By Senator Bill Hamrick

ATLANTA (Jan. 29, 2010) – Trust is the most important part of any relationship, particularly that of a citizen and their legislator. I serve on the Senate Ethics Committee where we handle all legislation addressing the moral and ethical issues relating to governmental individuals and groups. We work to ensure that your trust remains with your senator.

Our meeting this week was with the House Ethics Committee. We heard from two experts and two organizations regarding campaign contributions and lobbyist expenditures. We consult with experts so that we may be armed with the best information to make decisions.

Common Cause, an organization that specializes in ethics reform, presented their suggestions on how best to handle ethical issues in the legislature. Their ideas centered on transparency and establishing a code of ethics. Transparency is definitely the order of the day. We need the citizens of Georgia to be able to see all lobbyist expenditures and campaign contributions.

Doug Chalmers and Robert Highsmith, noted ethics attorneys, both spoke to this truth. Public confidence is contingent upon trust and transparency. They suggested that all campaign contributions and lobbying gifts be made available online. They did point out that contributions and expenditures to state officials and legislators are currently available online because of reporting requirements in the ethics law. Unfortunately, it is not available online for county and city officials. This is one loop-hole we hope to close this session. Legislation has been proposed that would effectively make all expenditures and donations available for the public to see but the legislature continues to debate this issue.

There is still much work to be done in this area, but the House and the Senate Ethics committees will continue to discuss how to handle ethical issues and move this issue forward in the Senate.

On the Senate floor, we voted on our first bill. Sen. Bill Heath introduced a bill to clarify laws regarding hands-free communication devices. It passed unanimously and takes us one step closer to making Georgia’s drivers safer. Once more committee meetings are placed on the calendar, we will have many more bills to debate on the floor, including bills relating to ethics.

As always, I am proud to serve my constituents of the 30th district of Georgia and continue to work on your behalf on a daily basis.  Although we face significant challenges this year, I am confident that we will overcome them to ensure Georgia can thrive for the future of our children and grandchildren.

Sen. Bill Hamrick serves as Chairman of the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee. He represents the 30th Senate District which includes portions of Carroll, Douglas, and Paulding counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.0036 or via e-mail at bill.hamrick@senate.ga.gov.

For Immediate Release:
January 29, 2010
For Information Contact:
Natalie Strong, Deputy Director
Katie Wright, Communications Associate