State Rep. Tommy Smith (R-Nicholls), a former Democrat and 30-year member of the House, just walked into our offices and announced himself as the first candidate to replace Speaker Glenn Richardson.
Smith promised to eliminate the “hawk” system that allowed the speaker to pack committees with ex officio members in order to move legislation he backed through the system. “I think that was really against representative government,” Smith said.
The south Georgia lawmaker, a blueberry farmer, also said he would end the system introduced by Richardson that prohibited many bills from being amended on the House floor, after receiving the approval of the Rules Committee. The policy heightened the influence of House Rules Chairman Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) and frustrated Democrats – and many rank-and-file Republicans worried about the concentration of power.
Smith also said he was interested in a proposal by Secretary of State Karen Handel to make the Legislature subject to the state Open Records Act, in order to increase transparency of influence on the two chambers. “That’s one of the things I’m looking at,” he said.
While some might look lightly on Smith’s candidacy, the changes he’s proposing are worth a hard look – and are likely to be major topics in both the Republican caucus elections and a House floor vote.
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