Political Notes – Ralston gives in on lobbyist cap

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He has been the strongest opponent among the legislative leadership of a bill that would impose any limits on what lobbyists can spend to entertain lawmakers, but even House Speaker David Ralston seems to have thrown in the towel.

As first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ralston is now indicating he could support a measure to prohibit any gifts from lobbyists, a ban that would be similar to the “not even a cup of coffee” prohibition enacted in Florida several years ago.

“I’ve said that if we ever decided to move away from that system, I thought the alternative would be a prohibition,” said Ralston, adding that he will establish a study committee next year to review how other states regulate lobbyist spending.

Ralston, who has said on many occasions that the current state law requiring full disclosure of lobbyist expenditures is sufficient, found himself increasingly being backed into a corner on this issue.

In the July 31 primaries, more than 87 percent of Republican voters and 72 percent of Democratic voters supported a straw vote question to put at least a $100 cap on what lobbyists could spend. Even in Ralston’s North Georgia district, more than 85 percent of the voters approved those ballot questions.

State Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) will sponsor a bill next session to impose that spending cap and the Senate leadership said they would likely support it or at least allow a vote on it.

Ryan is the choice

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, an Ayn Rand disciple who wants to eliminate or at least privatize social programs like Medicare and Social Security, was announced Saturday as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential choice for the Republican ticket this fall.

Georgia Republicans issued the standard statements of support usually heard on occasions such as this, but some of them didn’t appear to be as enthusiastic as others about the choice.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who served with Ryan in the U.S. House, released this rather lukewarm response: “I congratulate Gov. Romney for making a thoughtful and serious choice by selecting Paul Ryan to be his running mate.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, on the other hand, was a little more gung-ho.

“Governor Romney made a big choice in selecting Congressman Paul Ryan to join him on America’s comeback team,” Graves said.

Graves, in contrast to Isakson, also offered to get out there and campaign personally: “I am excited about campaigning for the Romney-Ryan ticket and the opportunity and prosperity they will bring to each and every American.”

The selection of Ryan was one of those choices that appealed to people on both the right end and the left end of the political spectrum. Obama campaign officials were exultant over the news.

“Congressman Paul Ryan is best known as the author of a budget so radical the New York Times called it ‘the most extreme budget plan passed by a House of Congress in modern times,’” said Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina.

EPD issues Ogeechee permit

The state Environmental Protection Division has issued a permit “effective immediately” that will allow the textile company King America Finishing to continue discharging wastewater into the Ogeechee River, a decision that is being criticized by environmental organizations.

“Thousands of Georgians spoke out against the pollution from King America Finishing and begged the state to protect the Ogeechee River,” said Dianna Wedincamp of the Ogeechee Riverkeeper. “Unfortunately, it appears that once again the state has sided with the polluters instead of protecting us from pollution.”

“We appreciate the extensive input we received from the public during the comment period,” EPD Director Judson Turner said. “I am satisfied that this new permit addresses many of their concerns and recommendations and is protective of this valuable river ecosystem.”

After a massive fishkill in the Ogeechee last year in which 38,000 fish died, state inspectors discovered that there had been “an unpermitted wastewater discharge from the King America Finishing facility in Screven County.” The company subsequently agreed to pay a $1 million settlement to EPD.

© 2012 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: David Ralston , Dianna Wedincamp , discharge permit , EPD , Johnny Isakson , Josh McKoon , King America , lobbyist spending limitation , Ogeechee River , Paul Ryan , Tom Graves