News Clip on Speaker Succession

December 8, 2009

Click here to see this blog featured on 11Alive News.

A “small chorus” singing the right tune made a big difference.


Making the Right Call

December 7, 2009

I just received the following from Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter:

“Given my responsibilities as Speaker Pro Tem, upon the official resignation of Speaker Richardson, I will call for an election the week we reconvene for the 2010 session of the Georgia General Assembly. Then you may elect a new Speaker who can take this job and be fully committed to it into the next decade.”

This is the right decision for the House of Representatives as an institution and for Georgia. Many of us expressed serious concerns. I am grateful that our concerns were heard and respected.


The Way Forward

December 7, 2009

Last week’s events shook citizens’ confidence in their legislature. I wish that was not the case because, like me, most legislators make the many sacrifices that accompany public service for the right reasons.

But we are where we are.

I hope that one thing is clear: To restore public confidence and put this fiasco behind us, the permanent successor to the current Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives must be selected in a manner that is as swift, open, and transparent as possible.

The Georgia Constitution provides that Speaker Pro Tempore Mark Burkhalter will automatically become the Speaker of the House when Glenn Richardson’s resignation becomes effective on January 1. Then, the House Rules require that an election in the full House of Representatives be called within 120 days of the Speaker Pro Tem assuming the Speaker’s chair.

That election should occur on January 11, the first day of the 2010 legislative session, even though the rules allow for a transition period that could last through the end of the session. This is the only way we can begin to restore the public’s trust and “right the ship” that must be sailed through legislative waters which, in light of plummeting state revenues, already are fraught with peril.

Put another way, I agree with the widely circulated e-mail that members of the House Republican Caucus received from our colleague, Michael Harden. I am reposting it below in case you haven’t seen it:

Only An Election Allows The House To Move Forward
By Representative Michael Harden (R-Toccoa)

“By now, every Georgian knows that Speaker Glenn Richardson has resigned due to a truckload of personal problems. While I am glad he resigned, I also sincerely hope that he obtains the help he needs and finds peace in the years to come.

Now that this chapter is almost closed, it is time for the Georgia House of Representatives to move on and get back to the business of this state. Unemployment has surged across the state, especially in rural areas, impacting countless Georgia families. State revenues continue to decline damaging everything from public safety to public education. It is long past time we got back to doing what the people elected us to do.

However, we cannot truly move on and begin a fresh start until a new Speaker is fully and fairly elected by the entire House. We must have an election to truly close this chapter and move forward as a legislative body, and that election should happen before the General Assembly Session begins.

The process has worked as the Constitution intends. The Speaker Pro-Tempore will assume the duties of the office temporarily and has 120 days to call an election. However, the calendar undermines what the House needs to do to move past this episode.

Because Speaker Richardson is not officially resigning until January 1, the temporary Speaker could serve through the Session without calling for an election. The House would only have a temporary leader, not a fully respected one. This situation is not acceptable to me or to a significant number of my colleagues.

The longer we wait to hold a real election, the longer this drama will continue and the more damage it will do to the House and to our state.

With all the budget and policy challenges in these difficult times, Georgia needs a Speaker of the House with the full, unquestioned support of the House of Representatives.

Waiting until the end of the Session, or worse, having an election in the middle of a Session, only hinders the House’s ability to pass meaningful legislation and from an “inside baseball” perspective makes the House weaker in its negotiations with the other branches of state government.

We have nothing to fear from open, transparent, and honest government. Let us clear the air and start fresh by electing a Speaker with a clear mandate to lead.

Please do not misunderstand my purpose here. I am not opposed to our current leadership. If fact, I personally like them and voted for them. I would very seriously consider Mark Burkhalter or Jerry Keen if they offered themselves for Speaker. They are strong and capable leaders.

However, a temporary Speaker hurts the House and hurts our ability to govern effectively. There is not a legitimate reason to delay an election. The House can hold an election the first week in January or on the first day of the Session very easily. Then, and only then, will this chapter finally be closed and the House and the state it serves can finally move forward.”


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