Deal urges ethics revisions, puts the blame on the media


Gov. Nathan Deal blamed the ongoing controversy over legislative ethics on the media’s coverage of the issue, but urged lawmakers to revise the state’s ethics laws anyway.

“There will always be those in the media and elsewhere who thrive on sowing the seeds of doubt and distrust, and who will never recant their sinister innuendos and malicious accusations even when they are vanquished by truth,” Deal declared Thursday in his annual “state of the state” address to a joint legislative session.

“While you will never silence those voices of discord, nor should you try to do so, you can bolster the confidence of the public that might be tempted to listen to them by simply establishing clear rules under which you and those who deal with you in your capacity as elected officials must operate,” Deal said.

The Senate voted Monday to adopt an internal rule prohibiting senators from accepting gifts worth more than $100 from lobbyists. House Speaker David Ralston has proposed that a total ban be implemented on what lobbyists can spend to entertain lawmakers.

If legislators should decide to strengthen the current law on ethics and campaign reporting requirements, Deal said the new rules “should apply equally to all elected officials at the state and local levels.”

“We can build the strongest foundations of frugality, efficiency and competitiveness upon which our state government will rest; but if the citizens of Georgia don’t trust us, it will all be in vain, for the vibrations of distrust will crack even the strongest foundations,” the governor cautioned.

Deal’s comments on legislative ethics came near the end of a 30-minute speech that contained no bold or sweeping policy proposals, but instead focused on small-bore tweaks of issues that the Legislature has already been considering.

He said he will include a 3 percent increase in HOPE funding as part of his proposed state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

“I am happy to say that my budget will increase the Hope Scholarship by 3 percent over last year, bringing the total funds going to Hope in FY 2014 to nearly $600 million,” Deal said. “This is quite a contrast to the proposed bankruptcy of HOPE that was projected to occur this year.”

Deal said his budget will also try to channel more HOPE scholarship funds towards students who take job training courses in one of Georgia’s technical colleges.

“Currently, there are several thousand jobs available for individuals with a commercial driver’s license,” he said. “There are similar shortages in the areas of nursing and early childhood education.”

“In order to fill these vacancies, we suggest directing additional funds within our Technical College HOPE Grants so that over 90 percent of the tuition costs in these programs will be provided,” Deal said. “That’s putting your money where the jobs are.”

© 2013 by The Georgia Report


Tags: ethics revisions , HOPE scholarships , Nathan Deal , State of the State