ATLANTA – Legislation Democratic opponents charged would inject more money into politics in Georgia to the detriment of public policy gained final passage in the General Assembly Thursday.
The state House of Representatives passed the bill 96-69, with lawmakers voting along party lines. Since the Senate approved the measure late last month, it now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature.
The legislation would create eight so-called “leadership committees” headed by the governor, lieutenant governor and their general election opponents – plus the majority and minority caucus leaders in the Georgia House and Senate. The committees would collect campaign donations ahead of statewide and legislative elections.
While the committees would have to disclose the names of donors, they would not be subject to the contribution limits that apply to individual candidates.
“It gives our caucuses the ability to function like the parties do now,” said House Majority Whip Trey Kelley, R-Cedartown, who carried Senate Bill 221 in the House.
House Majority Leader Jon Burns, R-Newington, said the bill would treat Democrats and Republicans the same.
“This bill impacts both parties equally,” he said. “It’s an equal opportunity bill.”
But Democrats complained the bill would open the door to political fundraising during General Assembly sessions, a practice that is currently prohibited by state law to discourage lobbyists from seeking to influence votes on pending legislation.
“Do you have no concerns over money being raised during the legislative session while we’re voting on issues?” House Minority Whip David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, asked Kelley.
Rep. Matthew Wilson, D-Brookhaven, said it’s particularly bad timing for Republicans to be pushing to let more special-interest money into state politics at the same timing they’re sponsoring legislation that would make it more difficult for Georgians to vote.
“We’re raising barriers to ballot access … while creating yet another way for moneyed interests to influence our elections,” he said.
But Kelley said the legislation would strike a blow for greater transparency in campaign fundraising and spending. Any contributions or spending of more than $500 would have to be disclosed.