Thanks to you, speaker may un­load gravy train

The Covington News - - Opinion - You can reach Dick Yar­brough at yarb2400@ bel­lsouth.net or P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, GA 31139.

Are you sit­ting down, dear reader? House Speaker David Ral­ston, R-Blue Ridge, has an­nounced that he will pro­pose a full ban on gifts from lizard-loafered lob­by­ists in the next ses­sion.

Be­fore you fall over in a dead faint, let me re­mind you that politi­cians are crafty sorts. They ex­cel at say­ing one thing and do­ing an­other — “an­other” be­ing what­ever is in their self-in­ter­est. That is why we need to wait and see if the speaker re­ally means it and if the Gen­eral Assem­bly re­ally does it.

The speaker told the At­lanta news­pa­pers that vot­ers “spoke on the is­sue” in the re­cent pri­mary vot­ing and that he is “com­mit­ted from the House side to mak­ing sure we have some real, se­ri­ous ethics re­form.” Ad­mit­tedly, I am a prod­uct of pub­lic schools but “real” and “se­ri­ous” say to me that what we have had to this point has been nei­ther real nor se­ri­ous.

That is where you come in. You have been very de­ter­mined to make sure our leg­is­la­tors un­der­stood your un­hap­pi­ness with their cav­a­lier at­ti­tude to­ward ethics re­form and ev­ery time they trot­ted out the term “gim­mick,” that only made you mad­der. It seems the shade is go­ing up for our in­trepid pub­lic ser­vants and they are be­gin­ning to re­al­ize that you just might short- en their po­lit­i­cal ca­reers if they don’t lis­ten to you in­stead of march­ing to the speaker’s tune.

You have shared with me your let­ters to your rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the topic of ethic re­forms as well as the replies you re­ceived in re­turn. I found their re­sponses fall into three gen­eral cat­e­gories: (a) The “bug let­ter” that says noth­ing ex­cept to thank you for writ­ing and ig­nores the frus­tra­tions you ex­press; (b) a lec­ture and/or whine about how lit­tle they get paid to do their very dif­fi­cult job and how much they learn while they (and their spouses) eat at some fancy res­tau­rant, cour­tesy of a lizard-loafered lob­by­ist; or (c) no re­sponse at all.

I have been told by a cou­ple of trust­wor­thy souls un­der the Gold Dome that David Ral­ston and his min­ions don’t care much for me or my opin­ions. Cry me a river. It was prob­a­bly those same min­ions who saw noth­ing wrong with their boss tak­ing his fam­ily on a $17,000 all-ex­penses paid ex­cur­sion to Ger­many cour­tesy of a non-reg­is­tered Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ist a cou­ple of years ago to see a magnetic lev­i­ta­tion train he could have seen in Cobb County.

As far as I am con­cerned, they can con­sider me a bump on a log but they can’t ig­nore you. One knowl­edge­able po­lit­i­cal ob­server goes so far as to give you, dear reader, a lot of credit for rat­tling their cages on the is­sue of ethics re­form. I choose to be­lieve that. Spe­cial in­ter­est groups are busy pat­ting them­selves on the back right now but politi­cians know how to fi­nesse those groups. What they fear most are in­di­vid­u­als like you who take the time and ef­fort to write a per­sonal note or to make a phone call.

Given his an­tipa­thy for your hum­ble ser­vant, I am sure Mr. Ral­ston won’t mind if I up­date you on his so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties for June and July. As you will re­call from my last re­port, the speaker had re­ceived $4,145.21 in good­ies through midJune. Since then, the State Ethics Com­mis­sion re­ports an­other $563.92 in June, in­clud­ing a $450 mem­ber­ship to Delta’s Sky Club, cour­tesy of the air­line, a $34.52 din­ner from Evonne Stel­lato, of Al­le­gran, Inc. at a bis- tro in Charleston, W.Va., and a $52.40 din­ner from Rudy Un­der­wood of the Ge­or­gia Chem­istry Coun­cil.

In July, Jon How­ell, of the Ge­or­gia Health Care As­so­ci­a­tion spent $603.42 win­ing and din­ing the speaker. His niece Sarah Denise Ral­ston, who works for the afore­men­tioned Ge­or­gia Health Care As­so­ci­a­tion, bought Un­cle David two dinners worth $46.27. The Ge­or­gia Cham­ber pro­vided the speaker lodg­ing at their gov­ern­ment af­fairs con­fer­ence for $431.63. Ge­or­gia Power sprung for a $104 din­ner. The state ar­chi­tect as­so­ci­a­tion spent $24.95 for din­ner. Yvonne Wil­liams of Perime­ter CIDS bought him a cake that cost $48.06. This brings his to­tal to $5,971.99 for the year and we still have five months to go. Nice.

Now all of a sud­den, the speaker sounds as if he is will­ing to un­load his gravy train. I’ll be­lieve it when I see it. If it does ac­tu­ally hap­pen, you may be sure that you had a hand in that de­ci­sion. I couldn’t be more pleased. Take a bow, dear reader. You de­serve it.

DICK YAR­BROUGH

COLUM­NIST

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