‘This is a case study in how to take government away from the people’
Today, March 8, is “Crossover Day” for Georgia’s General Assembly. Any bill that has not been passed by either the House or the Senate, by the end of today, will no longer be considered during this legislative session.
Two measures calling for an Article V constitutional convention have passed Georgia’s Senate. Special interest groups pushed for a constitutional convention for years; but it would endanger the rights we have under the current US Constitution. Read more about this threat to our government’s foundational document – and the special interests that are funding it – here.
The Senate has also passed a bill allowing the state’s highest-ranking executive and legislative officials to set up “Leadership Committees” that can accept unlimited campaign contributions from dark money groups, corporations, and high-dollar donors.
Statement of Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis
Georgia’s legislative leaders need to wake up and take another look at what they’re doing – and then each chamber needs to stop the damage that was started on the other side.
Because what they’re doing is taking our government away from us. They want to make it harder for people to vote. They want to make it easier for special interests to buy our government. And they want to put our constitutional rights at risk. This is a case study in how to take government away from the people.
Our elected leaders are supposed to represent us – and instead, they’re pursuing the policy priorities of special interests. Lots of special interest money has been spent promoting an Article V convention. So, nevermind the threat to our constitutional rights, Georgia’s Senate passed two resolutions calling for a convention.
Kind of convenient that the Senate also passed a bill to create ‘Leadership Committees.’ The bill would allow those very same special interests to contribute unlimited amounts of money to political committees set up by legislators. Dark money groups could contribute, corporations could contribute, anyone from anywhere could contribute as much money as they want. Are we really supposed to believe that our elected officials wouldn’t be influenced by all that money? How are our voices supposed to be heard, when there are out-of-state special interest groups that can spend unlimited money?
We are supposed to have a government ‘by the people’ – but so far in this legislative session, the people’s interests are being sold down the river.
And not only do they want to let ‘Big Money’ drown out our voices, they also want to make it much harder for us to vote. If there’s a way to make it harder to vote, it’s in the omnibus anti-voting bills. They want to eliminate ‘Souls to the Polls’ Sunday voting. They want to cut the number of hours that we can vote early in-person. They want to limit the use of absentee voting. They want to slash availability of ballot drop boxes. They want to prevent county elections officials from opening new voting locations. They want to allow counties to cut the number of voting machines available.
Remember all the national headlines from Georgia’s primary last June? Remember all those long lines, in Black neighborhoods and other communities of color? That’s what they want to create again – they want to intentionally create those long lines to discourage people from voting.
And they also want to make it illegal for people to give water to people waiting in line to vote.
These bills are intentionally, horrifically, anti-voter.
In the rhetorical chaos that followed the presidential election, some of Georgia’s legislators have apparently forgotten who they’re supposed to be working for.
Crossover Day can stop the anti-voter momentum, if legislative leaders will just stop and think about what they’re doing. Just because one chamber has passed a bill to take government away from the people, doesn’t mean the other chamber has to follow through.
There is still time for legislators to show rationality and wisdom. There is still time to keep these measures from becoming law. The Senate can simply not act on HB 531. The House can set aside SB 221, SB 241, SR 28 and SR 29.
Both chambers can remember that the elections system they are trying to eviscerate was created by Republicans in 2005.
Legislators can remember that they owe their current offices to the system they are about to shred.
Georgia’s 2021 General Assembly doesn’t have to go down in history as the Legislature that tried to take our government away from us. Cooler heads can still prevail. And Crossover Day is a good day for legislators to start recovering from the post-election political rhetoric.
Georgia’s voters still don’t know much about these bills. So far, the proposals have been hidden behind closed-door consideration and cloaked in streamlined legislative processes. Voters don’t have lobbyists – and these bills have been hard to track even with lobbyists’ help.
But if they are passed, the bills’ impact will be very visible, very quickly. Unlimited contributions to “Leadership Committees” run by the Governor and legislative leaders will immediately cause questions about loyalty and whose interests are being served.
When the 2022 election comes around, we won’t be able to vote in the ways we have used for the past 15 years – and it will be perfectly clear who’s responsible for rolling back the hands of time and returning Georgia to the Jim Crow era status quo of voter suppression.
And if legislators in a few more states bow to the special interests funding the Article V convention effort – everyone in the country risks losing our constitutional rights.
Our Legislature can still fix this. It’s Crossover Day – and the two chambers don’t have to pass each other’s bills. By the end of the day, legislators who have been taking short-term policy positions for political reasons will have a voting record showing what bills they supported. If the bills don’t pass into law, those legislators are still “on the record.”
But if the measures do become law, those legislators will own the consequences.