In a rare show of unity, the Georgia House voted unanimously to repeal some controversial rules put in place by former Speaker Glenn Richardson.
With the 169-0 vote, House members gave the news media limited access to the House floor and officially killed the “hawks,” a small group of GOP legislators with the power to sweep in and vote swing the outcome of committee votes on legislation.
The reforms were pushed by new House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). Ralston was elected speaker after Richardson resigned amid allegations from his former wife that he had an affair with a utility lobbyist.
Democrats for years claimed that the rule changes pushed by Richardson were designed to strengthen the GOP’s power and shut off thoughtful debate over proposed legislation.
Rep. DuBose Porter of Dublin, the Democratic leader in the House and a candidate for governor, called the rule changes “a great first step.”
One of the rule changes allows members of the media to go on the floor of the House long enough to ask individual legislators to meet them outside.By extension, Porter said, this gives the public more access.
“We do away with that cloud that quite frankly hung over this body,” Porter said.
Rep. Alan Powell, a Democrat from Hartwell, said the rule changes go along with a new air of “fellowship” that began with Ralston’s election as speaker.
Ralston had already let members know he had no plans to use the so-called hawks.