“The issue of ethics is something that you in the media led the charge on,” he told reporters gathered in the Capitol for the brief ceremony.
Media reports included calls from groups like Common Cause and various Tea Party organizations that pushed for restrictions on lobbyists. Both political parties happened to put straw-poll questions about lobbyists’ gifts on last summer’s primary ballots.
House Bill 142 sets the first limit on gifts that can be given to legislators. The $75 maximum is for each expenditure, and critics warn that lobbyists could bypass it by making a series of gifts.
House Speaker David Ralston said that while he favored a complete ban on certain gifts, he isn’t recommending legislation next year to close loopholes.
“We need to let this measure work,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “It would be premature to consider revisions.”
Asked about a last-minute change in the bill that excuses lawyers from registered as lobbyists and having to report what they give officeholders, Ralston said he wasn’t concerned it would open the door to abuses.
The speaker repeated what he said throughout the past year that he didn’t think there were widespread incidences of legislators swayed by lobbyists’ gifts.
“No, I don’t think there’s a problem,” he said, calling it a misperception instead.
Deal, however, praised the ethics bill as necessary to restoring public trust.
“I think it is a considerable step forward,” he said.