Like It or Not: 'Shady' Senate

Opinion piece by William Perry
 
Tall trees surround the state capitol, providing a bit of shade. But like it or not there’s a lot more shade inside the building, thanks to many of our elected officials!
 
Our focus today is on the shady Senate. State senators recently blocked a new rule that would have shined a light on some of the votes they cast. As things stand now, votes are supposed to be recorded on a digital voting machine, displayed here for all to see, and then later posted on the internet.

Full transparency. Sounds pretty good, right?

But here’s the shady part: if a bill is on the Senate floor and an amendment is offered, the votes aren’t even recorded unless a group of Senators insists. Those amendments simply get a hand vote.

The lieutenant governor alone decides whether the “yeas” or the “nays” have it, and there is absolutely no way to confirm how your Senator voted unless you are there in person to see it.

That's governing in the dark!

Now it used to be that hand votes on floor amendments were no big deal. They were used to make minor changes, like fixing a typo in the language of a bill.

But now, way too often, shady senators and representatives use such votes to completely change the intent of a bill, or they slip in a pork barrel project.

So a bill that had public hearings, then was approved by a committee, can suddenly be gutted.

This happens without debate, without public input and usually with no time for a senator to even read the amendment.

There's no better example than the 2015 State transportation bill. The bill raising taxes on gasoline, electric cars, and other items went through public hearings, committee debate, and was passed in both the Senate and House. All in plain sight for everyone to see. 

Then, without any notice, a floor committee included a $5 dollar per hotel room tax to the bill which added $150 million in taxes. And because it was a floor vote with no recording keeping, you have no idea how or if your elected official voted for it.

Clearly, it was orchestrated to keep taxpayer watchdogs and interested citizens in the dark. This “sleight of hand” trick is gaining acceptance and momentum at the state capital. 

Now, State Senator Josh McKoon of Columbus is fighting to change this. I consider McKoon a champion of transparent government. He offered a new rule that would require each senator's vote on the floor amendments to be recorded, just like their regular votes. 

That apparently makes too much sense.

Unfortunately, the rule met a quick death in committee, and it was voted down by voice vote. It didn't even get a hand vote! Whose side are these politicians on?

Allow me to suggest you make some calls to the shady lawmakers who have the power and influence to resurrect the common sense rule:  Lieutenant Governor (shady) Casey Cagle, Majority Leader Bill (shady) Cowsert, and Rules Committee Chairman (shady) Jeff Mullis. Here are their email addresses and phone numbers.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (404) 656-5030 casey.cagle@ltgov.ga.gov
Sen. Jeff Mullis (706) 375-1776 jeff.mullis@senate.ga.gov
Sen. Bill Cowsert (706) 543-7700 bill.cowsert@senate.ga.gov

Tell them to come out of the shadows. Record the votes on floor amendments!

That's my opinion - like it or not.

 

What do you think? Join the conversation on Facebook! You can also view more Like It or Not editorials on YouTube.

 

 DISCLAIMER: This segment represents the views of the commentator and not necessarily those of FOX 5 Atlanta.

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