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Friday May 29th, 2015 8:24AM

New lobbying rules would prohibit airfare expenses

By Ken Stanford Reporter
ATLANTA (AP) -- Newly proposed rules would ban lobbyists from buying airfare for Georgia's state officials under an amended plan released Thursday by a leading Republican.

The latest version of House Speaker David Ralston's legislation would prevent lobbyists from paying the airfare of public officials when they travel to events.

Lobbyists could still cover other travel expenses, lodging and food and beverage costs under the proposal. While state officials could travel with staff, they could not bring family members other than a spouse. In 2010, a lobbyist paid $17,000 to take Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, his family and two others on a trip to Germany.

Ralston's legislation stirred opposition from Common Cause Georgia and groups of conservative activists because it would force their leaders to register as lobbyists. The Republican has since changed his plan so that volunteers lobbying at the Statehouse for no more than five days a year would not need to register so long as they do not get paid.

The plan released Thursday goes farther, exempting volunteers who lobby for free from filing required lobbyist financial disclosure statements so long as they have not spent money to influence officials over the past year and do not plan to in the coming year. Failure to file a lobbyist spending report can result in hefty fines.

"If they start making expenditures, then certainly they have to start going ahead and making the regular reporting like others do," said Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna.
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