The headline is apropos of the situation, I would have come up with something just as clever if Democrats were in the same position. It’s sad that the initial reaction by partisans on both sides will be to either dismiss this or use it for partisan gain. But I digress, just read on to learn what really nasty trick was pulled.
Normally, I wouldn’t focus on the state government level, but I think this kind of legislation might be a test bed for doing the same thing on the federal level. In a nutshell, the majority in both of Georgia’s houses (which happens to be Republicans for the first time in over 100 years) has found a way to let the House majority leader have full control of what bills come up for vote.
The majority leader has a group of partisan “hawks” which can be placed into any committee and vote whether to send the bill to the floor for voting or kill it in committee. This group of “hawks” is best described in this Atlanta Journal Constitition article — Republicans write rules:
The new House rules let Richardson appoint legislative “hawks” who can swoop in to any committee with the authority to vote the way the speaker wants them to.
The rules do not specify how many “hawks” Richardson can name, but he said there will probably be no more than two or three. Democrats immediately bristled, arguing the move guarantees Republicans can win any dispute in committee. “I hear them crying,” Richardson told reporters later. “I promise we’re not going to abuse this.”
If you believe that line, I have land in Okefenokee you might want to buy.
Here’s the actual text of the bill that was passed, and yes they actually use the term “hawks,” which is supposed to symbolize the nature of their ability to swoop into any committee and make sure a bill is either approved or killed before it can go to vote:
“Rules, Ethics and Decorum of the House of Representatives”
2005 under Committee Organization And Functioning
The Speaker may appoint one or more members to the position of Hawk. The Speaker may designate one of the Hawks as Senior Hawk. The Hawks shall serve as ex officio members of all standing committees and subcommittees of the House and shall have a vote on all committees and subcommittees.
The result is twofold. First, the controlling party can now make sure all bills they put forward will go through, essentially cutting representative democracy off at the knees. Second, the rule can never be repealed or curtailed through legislation, because the Speaker can always send a hawk into the committee that bill is in and have it killed in the cradle.
Now imagine this as being an experiment in Georgia on a state level and if the majority party tried to do the same thing on a federal level. The result would be to literally convert our representative republic into a majority democracy, an affront to the Constitution and a short step away from a tyranny of the majority instead of the representative government which our Constitution guarantees.
This rewriting of our form of government is one of the few times when are duty-bound to rising up against our own government and remove it. And I’m not just being whimsical here, I am quoting directly from the Declaration of Independence itself:
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,”
Remember, the colonies could send envoys to England, but they had no say in the making of laws or levying in taxes because they had no minority representation. Rules such as this abolish representative government, and thus the minority no longer have any representation at all. The majority speaker now weilds dictator power in Georgia. I don’t care if Republicans or Democrats are the ones in the majority to be able to weild this unConstitutional power, it is simply unConstitutional and we cannot allow our government to finagle its way into giving all power to a single party.
Like I said, this is probably an experiment to see how it goes, you can bet that a similar rule will make its way to the federal legislative body in short order if this is not challenged .