Douglas sets forth pro­posed amend­ment to Ge­or­gia con­sti­tu­tion

Bill through Se­nate, on to House be­fore Novem­ber gen­eral elec­tion

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Rachel Oswald

A con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment, in­tro­duced by Sen. John Douglas, to ex­tend the terms of all Gen­eral As­sem­bly mem­bers from two years to four years, has cleared the Se­nate and its House sub­com­mit­tee.

Se­nate Res­o­lu­tion 279 was passed out of the House Gov­ern­men­tal Af­fairs Com­mit­tee last week. Douglas (R-Cov­ing­ton) said the res­o­lu­tion is in the House Rules Com­mit­tee right now wait­ing to be as­signed for a House floor vote.

Douglas said he in­tro­duced the res­o­lu­tion be­cause he felt a move to four-year terms would

al­low leg­is­la­tors to fo­cus more on con­sis­tent ser­vices and less on cam­paign­ing for re- elec­tion.

“ Hav­ing a two- year term puts you in a per­pet­ual cam­paign mode,” Douglas said. “ You are cam­paign­ing, ba­si­cally all the time.”

The res­o­lu­tion was voted out of the Se­nate on March 1 by a vote of 49- to- 6, more than the two thirds ma­jor­ity nec­es­sary for a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment. To pass in the House, the res­o­lu­tion will need the votes of 120 mem­bers.

“ It’s got wide­spread sup­port up here,” Douglas said. “ I hope to see it ap­proved by the House and the vot­ers.”

As a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment, the res­o­lu­tion will need to be ap­proved by Ge­or­gia vot­ers in a ref­er­en­dum, pos­si­bly in Novem­ber. The gov­er­nor’s ap­proval is not nec­es­sary for a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment.

With five leg­isla­tive days re­main­ing in this year’s ses­sion, the sup­port of House Speaker Glenn Richard­son ( R- Hi­ram) is viewed as nec­es­sary as the speaker can change the or­der of bills ap­pear­ing be­fore the House for a vote and can con­trol floor de­bate. Douglas said he did not know what Richard­son’s po­si­tion on the res­o­lu­tion was.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Richard­son’s of­fice did not re­turn calls for com­ment.

SR 279 would set stag­ger­ing terms for House and Se­nate dis­tricts with odd­num­bered dis­tricts elected dur­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion years and even- num­bered dis­tricts elected dur­ing Ge­or­gia’s gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion years.

If ap­proved by Ge­or­gia vot­ers in Novem­ber, even- num­bered dis­tricts would elect their leg­is­la­tures to four- year terms in 2010 while odd- num­bered dis­tricts would elect their leg­is­la­tures to a fi­nal twoyear term be­fore mov­ing to the four- year term cy­cle in 2012.

Douglas said he pur­posely wrote the res­o­lu­tion for odd- num­bered dis­tricts to make the change last as he rep­re­sents an odd- num­bered dis­trict, Dis­trict 17.

“ This would just bring th­ese terms in line with ev­ery­body else,” Douglas said.

How­ever a re­view of the term cy­cles of the coun­try’s 50 leg­is­la­tures shows that there is no clear ma­jor­ity in term lengths. Ac­cord­ing to UGA Po­lit­i­cal Science Pro­fes­sor Arnold Fleis­chmann, 12 states, in­clud­ing, Ge­or­gia, have two- year terms for their up­per houses, which in Ge­or­gia’s case is the Se­nate.

In the lower house ( in Ge­or­gia’s case the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives) only four states na­tion­ally have four- year terms, ac­cord­ing to Fleis­chmann. They are: Alabama, Mary­land, Mis­sis­sippi and North Dakota.

A move to four- year terms with a sin­gle con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment for both leg­isla­tive cham­bers would make Ge­or­gia un­usual said Fleis­chman, who is the au­thor of the book “ Pol­i­tics in Ge­or­gia.”

“ Four years for both houses would be an ex­cep­tion,” Fleis­chmann said. “ There’s a long tra­di­tion of elect­ing of­fi­cials here to short terms. This would be a change in that re­gard. I’m not sure how well that would go over.”

Douglas said most of the feed­back he has heard from mem­bers of his dis­trict on the pro­posed amend­ment has been pos­i­tive.

“ I think peo­ple un­der­stand that it’s time to bring th­ese terms in line with all the other elected of­fi­cials and to bring some change,” Douglas said, adding fouryear terms would al­low leg­is­la­tures to build up a greater in­sti­tu­tional knowl­edge of Ge­or­gia laws and al­low for greater con­ti­nu­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to Fleis­chmann, a move to a fouryear term cy­cle could give in­cum­bents more time to build up their cam­paign war chests, likely re­sult­ing in less com­pet­i­tive dis­trict races in a state where most in­cum­bents al­ready run un­op­posed.

Fleis­chmann added that a move to stag­gered terms could also make it more dif­fi­cult to change party con­trol in the Gen­eral As­sem­bly.

DOUGLAS

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