Ralston defended his use of legislative leave as appropriate, given the demands of his position. While he has declined a sit-down interview with the AJC's investigative reporters, Ralston spoke this week about the panel on Georgia Public Broadcasting's "Lawmakers."
“We will let them go to work. I don’t want to dictate to them either what they do or the speed at which they do it. I want them to get it right,” he said. “I think it’s an important issue and one I think we are taking a reasonable approach to.”
According to a press release from Ralston's office, the panel will review the state's current law and compare it with practices in other states. An AJC review of similar laws from across the nation found Georgia's legislative leave statute among the nation's most generous.
The panel does not have much time to make its suggestions if change is to come this year. The General Assembly has 15 working days left in its 40-day calendar.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News spent weeks searching court records in several North Georgia courts to understand how House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, delays court cases — sometimes for years — in his private law practice by claiming legislative duties require his attention. Further investigation found Ralston was on a conference committee of six lawmakers in 2006 that expanded a state law allowing lawmakers to claim that exemption even when the Legislature is not in session. On Sunday, the AJC will look at how other states have moved to curtail serial use of the legislative exemption and move cases along, especially when the victim is a child.