Bill weakens limits on lobbyist entertaining

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A bill proposes to make it easier for lobbyists to wine and dine lawmakers, a move that critics say would be a "step backward" from ethics reforms imposed on the General Assembly after the FBI's Tennessee Waltz bribery sting of 2005.

Republican Rep. Philip Johnson of Pegram has introduced a bill that would allow employers of lobbyists to host receptions for standing committees in either chamber. The existing law bans receptions, where food and alcohol often are served, unless all 132 state lawmakers are invited.

Johnson says his bill is designed to encourage citizens' access to lawmakers and to keep down costs.

But Dick Williams, chairman of Common Cause Tennessee, said the change would allow lobbyists to concentrate their spending on committees handling legislation they are advocating for.

AP-WF-01-27-12 1933GMT

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