Georgia Senate offers $100 lobbying cap in legislative plan



ATLANTA — Lobbyists would face a $100 spending limit when trying to influence Georgia officials under a Sen­ate plan released Thurs­day that tries to resolve political differences with House Spea­ker David Ralston.

The Senate Rules Com­mit­tee voted Thursday to approve major changes to a plan adopted by the House. Sen. Jeff Mullis, the chairman of the Rules Committee, said the law would apply to all levels of government, from mayors to the governor.

Officials in governments that do not set their own rules on lobbyist spending would be prohibited from accepting lobbyist gifts. Under the Senate plan, governments could not allow their officials to accept more than $100 from lobbyists at a time, though lobbyists could make several expenditures in a single day.

“It has the potential to change the culture of the Capitol,” said Sen. Cecil Sta­ton, the Republican whip.

The Senate plans to vote on the legislation today. If adopted, the plan probably would create conflict with leading House Republicans. Ralston denounced spending caps as “gimmicks” earlier this year and supported a plan that would have prohibited lobbyist spending on individual lawmakers.

But his plan left big exceptions, such as allowing lobbyists to spend without limit on legislative committees, caucuses and delegations. Mullis said the Senate plan would eliminate those loopholes.

Another conflict remains over rules governing who must register as a lobbyist and publicly report their spending.

Ralston wanted to change the rules to require more people to register, including some volunteer lobbyists for nonprofit or small groups. Under his plan, people lobbying for free would have to register if they spent more than five days at the Statehouse seeking to influence state officials.

The Senate plan would keep the current rules. Cur­rent­­ly, people must register if they are paid to lobby and spend more than 10 percent of their time seeking to influence officials.

They must also register if they spend more than $1,000 annually on lobbying efforts.

If approved by the full Senate, the amended plan would return to the House for a vote.