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Georgia ethics legislation could end free football tickets for lawmakers

Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 9:10 PM
Last updated Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012 12:11 AM
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ATLANTA — General Assembly approval next year of a proposed ethics reform measure could endanger a fall tradition for Georgia lawmakers: free football tickets.

The ethics reform package includes a lobbyist gift ban that could include football tickets.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the games are an important lobbying tool for big state schools because lawmakers vote on a state budget.

Some say lawmakers should get rid of the free tickets all together. Others argue that the tickets are a way to get lawmakers on campus and give them a look at what the schools are doing.

UGA, Georgia Tech and other schools with football programs in Georgia dole out $25,000 to $30,000 or more each football season in tickets and meals, according to lobbyist disclosure reports.

“Absolutely, I’d like to see them do away with everything,” said Kay Godwin of Georgia Conservatives in Action, part of the coalition pushing for limiting or eliminating lobbyist gifts to lawmakers. Currently there’s no limit on lobbyist spending.

But Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, who heads a House budget subcommittee on higher education, said there’s nothing wrong with schools inviting lawmakers to campus for games.

“I think it’s a benefit to the schools for the legislators who make decisions on those schools to come to those football games,” said Ehrhart, who typically attends one Georgia game each year. “I think they are able to show off the university at those events.”

That’s the main argument made by colleges, which sometimes spend big money to have legislators on campus. College lobbyists point out that money they spend comes from school fund-raising foundations, not from taxpayers.

UGA and Tech hold “legislative days” at their stadiums each year, which include receptions for lawmakers and their spouses and football.

The schools have pre-game receptions and then host dozens of lawmakers and their spouses to watch football.

While the university system isn’t taking a stand on the possible ban on football tickets, Tech lobbyist Dene Sheheane said he is reluctant to take away the chance to have legislators on campus.

“I would hope whatever would be decided would allow public officials to visit campuses, whether that’s for a student concert or an athletic event,” he said. “We have a lot of legislators who have never been to campus. We are introducing leaders to what is going on,” he said.

Sheheane said that on “legislative days,” lawmakers meet student leaders and key faculty, along with the school’s president.

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gargoyle
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gargoyle 12/29/12 - 10:46 pm
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I have a friend who contends

I have a friend who contends that a gift to a public offical should not be called unethical it should be called Treason. Our elected would be more incline to act ethicly if we called a thief a thief.

Just My Opinion
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Just My Opinion 12/29/12 - 11:39 pm
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I've been going to Georgia

I've been going to Georgia games for 30 years and I've NEVER heard of "legislative day". You know why? Because us regular people don't get invited to those kind of things, even though WE are the lifeblood of the finances that run that program. I understand that the goverment officials aid the schools in getting grants, endowments, and research projects. But don't pretend that these games are the only way these people can experience what the schools are all about. Season ticket holders are tired of financing this kind of crap and then having our costs go up to fund it. Let them pay their own way, and I mean that for UGA games and for future Paine College football games! (Notice I didn't include Georgia Tech games? They need all the people they can get at their games!!)

itsanotherday1
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itsanotherday1 12/30/12 - 01:53 am
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You're durn tootin they

You're durn tootin they should quit the practice. AGNC should not hand out tickets to local pols either, as should not the Bell and JBA. I've long been past tired of greasy politicians getting perqs just because they are politicians. No lobbyist's dinners and junkets, no nothing. The lobbyist can meet them in their office to pitch their position. If it can't stand on its own merit, it certainly doesn't need a $100 steak to make it more palatable. If NO ONE is greasing them, then no one has an advantage or disadvantage. A simple thank you note for their support should suffice.

Techfan
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Techfan 12/30/12 - 08:07 am
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What a freakin' shame.

What a freakin' shame.

madgerman
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madgerman 12/30/12 - 10:57 am
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I don't care what they do
Unpublished

I don't care what they do about perks for pols, but please don't take away the free gas cards for our elected officials, they need the money sooo badly.

griff6035
3987
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griff6035 12/30/12 - 11:26 am
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Free Game Tickets

Hey Earl, You want to go to a game, then buy your tickets and pay for your food. Taxpayers are sick and tired of freeloaders.

rmwhitley
5547
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rmwhitley 12/30/12 - 04:16 pm
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politicians
Unpublished

are going to steal, I mean take, free gifts not available to the general public because they feel they are BETTER than the people who pay them.

prov227
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prov227 12/30/12 - 08:05 pm
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Why does he need a handout to attend his alma mater ....

Ehrhart, a UGA grad and frat guy, you'd think he would want to visit the ole campus, football or not. All he needs do is donate to his alma mater's sports (er, educational) fund to get all the best seats in the club section. Heck, most of the "legislators" in Atlanta are UGA grads; many from UGA's law school. That's how they got there in the first place. They don't need free football ticket(s) to look out for UGA.

How can you tell a politician is lying? His mouth is moving and he believes he is a "statesman". Few of those around.

KSL
128644
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KSL 12/31/12 - 03:04 am
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Don' t stop at the free

Don' t stop at the free football tickets.

KSL
128644
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KSL 12/31/12 - 03:06 am
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Stop the other freebies.

Stop the other freebies.

GnipGnop
12190
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GnipGnop 12/31/12 - 08:40 am
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That goes for Masters tickets

to commissioners too!!!

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