Urge that Georgia’s Open Meeting Law be amended to include Legislature
In the wake of the secretive process surrounding the passage of Georgia’s anti-voter bill SB 202, 16 grassroots groups have called for amending Georgia’s Open Meeting Act so that it covers meetings of the General Assembly and its committees and subcommittees.
In a letter to Gov. Brian P. Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, and the state Legislature, the groups stated, “Georgians have the right to witness the open conduct of their business by the General Assembly.”
The letter described the process by which the anti-voting bill SB 202 was passed – and how the process was rigged to avoid public participation. “This bill was passed without the presence of the general public in the meeting room. Committee meetings on the bill were held with little or no notice to the public; the meetings were held at inconvenient times and were not streamed or recorded; the texts of amendments and substitutions were not made publicly available on the General Assembly website in a timely fashion.” The bill has “been called ‘voter suppression on steroids.’ Candidly, it should not have been passed in a room without more public participation,” the letter said.
In addition to urging that the Open Meetings Act be changed to include activities of the General Assembly, the letter outlined three other areas where the Legislature’s processes need to be improved:
- Visibility: for example, by livestreaming Wednesday morning committee meetings
- Accessibility: by providing members of the public an option to testify remotely and by eliminating the requirement that pre-session hearing testimony be notarized
- Clarity: by providing the public clear and consistent access to detailed agendas for every hearing and meeting, and providing at least 48 hours’ notice of meetings and agendas.
“SB 202 was a case study in pushing through legislation that benefits special interests, while costing voters and taxpayers,” said Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis. “Everyone involved had to know SB 202 was bad policy — otherwise, it wouldn’t have been rammed through the process so fast. Good policy is developed with public input from different viewpoints, and with time to consider consequences — and that didn’t happen. Our General Assembly is supposed to represent the people of Georgia, and that means the people of Georgia need to be able to see and participate in whatever is going on in the Legislature. After SB 202, it’s clear that ‘we the people’ need changes in how the Legislature works — and we need to start by amending Georgia’s Open Meetings Act to make sure the General Assembly is covered by its provisions.”
The letter was signed by the following organizations: Amplify Georgia; All Voting Is Local, Georgia; Common Cause Georgia; Fair Districts Georgia; Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda; Georgia Stand-Up; Georgia WAND Education Fund; New Georgia Project Action Fund; Planned Partnership for Southern Equity; Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates; Progress Georgia; Rep Georgia Institute, Inc.; Spark Reproductive Justice NOW!, Inc.; Showing Up for Racial Justice-Atlanta; Women Engaged and Women Watch Afrika, Inc.
“We demand that the Georgia legislative body no longer be permitted to meet secretly and make decisions that impact large constituencies of the Georgia public,” the organizations said in their letter. “It is the duty of the Georgia legislature to act to protect our right to know what our government is up to, and to have our voices heard through testimony.”
Read the full letter here.