As Jason always says, he is not a partisan person in his heart – none of us are. Despite what you read in the papers, the Senate is a collegial place, regardless of political party. There are a lot of good people there who are trying to do the right thing.
That said, we need to reform the way that our state does business so that we can guarantee an honest government that works for everyone.
The inadequacy of Georgia’s ethics laws – as well as enforcement of those laws – remains a major problem.
This spring, the Center for Public Integrity ranked Georgia dead last in the nation on the strength of our laws to prevent corruption and on the openness of our government. The State Ethics Commission can’t collect fines for past ethics violations because it is so underfunded that it cannot afford to send notices of violations by certified mail as required!
Several pieces of legislation were introduced last year – by both Democrats and Republicans – that would have imposed limits on lobbyists’ gifts to Georgia lawmakers, and these reforms were supported by an alliance of groups that included Common Cause Georgia, Georgia Watch, and the Georgia Tea Party Patriots. On the last day of this year’s session, Jason personally offered a floor amendment to require a $100 cap on gifts that lobbyists give to legislators. Even though this change was supported by all sides of the political spectrum, the Senate was denied a vote on the amendment.
Jason was awarded Common Cause’s prestigious Democracy Award for promoting ethics reform, and he will continue to fight for increased transparency and enforcement of the ethics laws that are on the books.
In 2011, the legislature engaged in its once-in-a-decade legislative redistricting process. Unfortunately, the maps that came out of that process were designed to stop Georgia’s progress. These maps target and eliminate districts where multiracial coalitions elect candidates, and in their place create districts where white majorities will elect white candidates and black majorities will elect black candidates. This is bad news for Georgia, no matter your political party.
That’s why the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus voted unanimously to oppose these maps and was joined by every Democrat in the General Assembly.
Not only did Jason help lead the legal fight against these maps, he co-sponsored legislation calling for an Independent Redistricting Commission to remove the partisanship that infects the rules of the game and to help ensure that Georgia’s legislative and Congressional districts are balanced and fairly drawn. An independent commission would work to improve public faith in the electoral process rather than enshrine partisan power of one kind or another.
As Democrats, our independent commission proposal was modeled on the findings of a blue ribbon committee formed by Governor Sonny Perdue and was virtually identical to the proposal put forward in 2007 by a group of Republican legislators. Neither proposal passed.
When we draw maps full of safely partisan districts, we get a political system that constantly pressures legislators to retreat into rigid partisan positions. Then, when it comes time to legislate on the highest-profile issues, the voices of moderates are stifled, reaching across the aisle becomes an act of betrayal, and real debate is supplanted by partisan bickering.
Jason will continue to fight for reforms that promote honest government and enable us to form bipartisan coalitions that can move the state forward and get our economy going again.