Your morning jolt: Abortion and stem cell research as the unspoken issues in the race for House speaker

One of the quiet issues that hasn’t been addressed – yet – during this one-week campaign for House speaker and other leadership positions is the role of abortion and stem cell research.

Despite Glenn Richardson’s shortcomings in the marital department, the Georgia business community silently applauded the soon-to-be-former speaker’s approach to transportation and science, and thus economic development.

For the last several sessions, it has been Richardson’s House – not Casey Cagle’s Senate — that sat on legislation to ban or even criminalize embryonic stem cell research in Georgia, provoking a great deal of criticism from the Republican party’s right-to-life base.

None of the candidates for House speaker have addressed the issue, at least in public. So far, the urgency of the state budget situation has been enough to deflect inquries.

The major religious conservative organizations – Georgia Right to Life, the Georgia Christian Alliance and the Christian Coalition – have yet to weigh in. But you can be sure the topic is getting an airing in private.

Perhaps the greatest first mark a new House speaker can make is his choice of committee chairmen. State Rep. Larry O’Neal of Houston County has dropped the largest hints of a shake-up:

I will set a high ethical standard that will apply to all members equally. No one will be “above the law,” including myself.

Accordingly, I will be re-evaluating all committee chairmen before the session to ensure they have met that standard, and decisively make changes if required. There will be no witch hunts, but no committee chairman will be exempt from this review, no matter how important the committee or chairman.

One of the safest jobs in the Capitol may belong to Joe Wilkinson of Sandy Springs, chairman of the House Ethics Committee. No matter who becomes speaker, it would not look good to move the fellow.

This was in a memo sent Friday by Fran Millar of Dunwoody, now a candidate for speaker pro tem:

…[W]e need to deal with ethical issues on an objective bipartisan basis. It has been suggested a code of conduct may be in order for House members. Bottom line, Joe Wilkinson and his committee should be allowed to do its job with no interference from leadership.

But one of the most vulnerable chairmen may be Earl Ehrhart of Powder Springs, who is chairman of the House Rules Committee and thus controls the flow of legislation through the chamber.

Not because of any ethical flaws, but because he was, simply put, Richardson’s closest ally in the Capitol.

Which brings us to state Rep. Jill Chambers of Atlanta, chairman of the House-Senate MARTA oversight committee. She has become the first member of House leadership to endorse the insurgency campaign of David Ralston of Blue Ridge.

Chambers has offered up her chairmanship, should Ralston need to win someone else’s support. She also supports state Rep. John Lunsford’s efforts to force a vote on House Majority Leader Jerry Keen (St. Simons Island) – the only to House leader who hasn’t agreed to leave his position.

Here’s her letter to members of the House Republican caucus:

I first met David Ralston during his campaign for Attorney General. I have been to his district and I know firsthand how much his constituents respect and appreciate their State Representative. We do not always agree on issues or vote the same way, but, as a committee chairman and as a friend he has always been available.

Politics is about the art of the deal. As part of the deal making process for Speaker, I have offered David my chairmanship of MARTOC and my ranking position on the Appropriations committee as a tool for his campaign. This House leadership election is far more important than my own ambitions.

The Legislative Branch has 236 ambitious people serving our state of Georgia, myself included. We are now offered a chance to set our egos aside and focus on the budget crises facing all levels of government.

The independence of the House is at stake. We are not family. We are members of the Legislative Branch of state government. The House is not subservient to the Senate, the Judicial Branch, or the Executive Branch.

My signature is the second name on the Lunsford petition. At this time, I call on our remaining caucus leadership to hold an open election for their positions of trust. If the caucus re-elects them, they will go forward with a vote of confidence. Even if they lose, they can still honorably represent their constituents.

In closing, I respectfully ask you to consider the need for steady independent leadership in the House. Vote David Ralston for Speaker.

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46 comments Add your comment

Intown lib

December 14th, 2009
11:02 am

Good lord. Stem cell research and abortion as the litmus test? When are we going to get Republican party leadership that is serious about tackling the real issues facing this State: (1) water: (2) transportation; and (3) education. No wonder our state is falling behind in economic development.

Al Bundy

December 14th, 2009
11:04 am

“Despite Glenn Richardson’s shortcomings in the marital department, the Georgia business community silently applauded the soon-to-be-former speaker’s approach to transportation and science, and thus economic development.”

This is laughable at best, since republicans hate transportation and science.

The Truth

December 14th, 2009
11:08 am

Well, well the chickens have finally come home to roost. After 100 plus years of being in the minority, the Republicans finally get their chance to make an impact and set some policy. And what have they done? They have eliminated Florida Gator logos on car tags and have told women how many embryos they can implant themselves with…..not what I would call a great track record. And lets not forget the sweetheart deal just given to GA Power and the Southern Company that will raise our bills but not have any impact on nuclear power for many years….

Well, now is your chance GA Republicans to right the ship before it sinks. All leadership should step down and new elections take place to set some integrity back to the House. Just do not put in Larry O’Neal as the Speaker. He is the one who gave Perdue all of those sweetheart deals on the land grabs he has purchased while avoiding any conflict of interest as Governor of the state. If you do, then it will be more of the same. A clean slate is truly needed and here is your chance. Work bipartisan and do not blow this chance…..


December 14th, 2009
11:09 am

please educate us on what he did for improving transportation in metro areas of state?

The General

December 14th, 2009
11:32 am

All four of the above comments are spot on. Nothing more I can add.

middler and so tired of all the rhetoric :

December 14th, 2009
11:44 am

Ditto!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The GOP is in charge…and has been. Do something to help us for a change. Maybe you elected officials are impervious to the economy and water and job issues that the rest of us are trying to deal with. Even if you are, you were elected, and are paid and re-elected, to represent us. Not businesses, other legislators, lobbyists, or yourselves. Abortion and stem cell issues can wait or can be taken care of by the people really affected and involved. Stay out of our bedrooms and do some work in the state house. Doing nothing hurts too!

Rod Sanders

December 14th, 2009
11:45 am

Jill Chambers is my kind of woman! Reminds you a little of Margaret Thatcher.

The Ghost of Tom Murphy

December 14th, 2009
11:48 am

Same song, different verse.

The best description ever of the Georgia General Assembly was made by then Governor Marvin Griffin: “Like 3 truck loads of bean pickers without a foreman”.

Meanwhile, the lobbyists for the utilities, banks, hospitals, and big construction, anxiously meet in secret trying to decide who will be the next crop of ‘leaders’ that need bribing and quieting down.


December 14th, 2009
11:54 am

It is about EDUCATION stupid!! More needs to be done to improve the education process. We need students that can compete in today’s economy. The State of Georgia has let down future leaders of Georgia and The World by providing substandard education.

Dave Dawg

December 14th, 2009
11:58 am

Didn’t Jerry Keen say last year that he has more interest in the monorail at Disney World (which is closer to his home) than MARTA? This is NOT someone we need in a statewide leadership position. I’m sure there’s no love lost between Chambers and Keen on MARTA, but again, this state doesn’t need someone as provincial as him in a leadership position.

Maybe Florida needs a new House Majority Leader?

Do Nothings

December 14th, 2009
12:00 pm

Please, no more good ole boys from Bonaire!

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

December 14th, 2009
12:09 pm

You tell ‘em, General Cipher. That’s really sticking it out there.

The General
December 14th, 2009
11:32 am

All four of the above comments are spot on. Nothing more I can add.

Churchill's MOM

December 14th, 2009
12:15 pm

As a Georgia native, I know the simple fact that there are a lot of stupid people in Georgia but the Legislature has more that their share.

silent jay

December 14th, 2009
12:16 pm

At least Glenn can always be Governor of South Carolina.


December 14th, 2009
12:35 pm

Jill Chambers is as unethical and narrow minded as they come in the ranks of the Republican Party. She answers no emails from anyone outside her narrow constituency even if we live in the same county. I would hold anyone suspect that she supported.

Angry Republican

December 14th, 2009
12:36 pm

After we have our House Speaker have to resign under scandalous conditions it is unacceptable to have our Republican meet behind closed to doors to try to come up with his successor. What do you have to hide? How many Republicans like myself also think that our state Republican Party stinks to high heaven with corruption? It is time to clean house and get some fiscally responsible and moral representatives!

Georgia Voter

December 14th, 2009
12:38 pm

We need a list of Glenn Richardson’s cronies so we can root those scum out of our government!


December 14th, 2009
12:38 pm

Fran Millar has no earthly idea about bipartisanship. What a hack!


December 14th, 2009
12:39 pm

We need some pro-choice republicans in charge. The heck with Sadie Fields. Let the religious right go back to handling snakes and speaking in tounges.


December 14th, 2009
12:40 pm

The far right extremist “Christians” have hijacked the once great GOP. Instead of worrying about jobs, education and the economy (as any good government should do), these yahoos will spend their time bashing gays, outlawing women’s rights and creating their own version of the Taliban. It’s pathetic and will keep this state just this side of Mississippi in ranking… at the bottom of the barrel.


December 14th, 2009
12:42 pm

We let the kooks take over the Republican party in Georgia years ago. This meant that any Republican candidate had to pass a litmus test on abortion. Now throw in embryonic stem cell research. These idiots want to not just withdraw funding or ban something that could be of tremendous benefit to mankind, but criminalize it!


December 14th, 2009
12:47 pm

My word, are they going to introduce another stem cell / human embryo bill this year? Is it an annual tradition?

Jimmy Jackson

December 14th, 2009
12:47 pm

“No ethical issues with Erhart”???? Cmon you have to know he is known for pay to play attitude and looking out for number one as badly as the rest of them (and I am a Republican). Follow the money on the student scholarship fund issue – Earl writes the bill and then sets up his own group to take those donations where he can skim 10% off the top without any scrutiny as the “manager” even though costs to run one are not that big. Think he is not twisting donor arms to route their student scholarship donations through his gorup instead of other groups???? Pretty cool to write a law to legalize his new source of income….

Not in the Hunt

December 14th, 2009
12:57 pm

Hey “The Truth” suggest you direct your bloviating towards Washington D.C.

MF Intown

December 14th, 2009
1:02 pm

Mr. Galloway, could you explain the logistics of a “caucus” meeting when the General Assembly is not “is session” please? What are the limits on what can get done when the legislature is not in its annual 40-day session? Are committees actively working on legislation right now? Does the majority party have more rights to schedule meetings at the Capitol than the minority party during this time frame?


December 14th, 2009
1:06 pm

My man Ox supports life. No to embryonic stem cell research.

Al Bundy

December 14th, 2009
1:24 pm

If your man Ox supported life, he’d have worked with Sonny to make seatbelts a requirement for EVERY Georgian, eliminating the exception for the downstate yahoos. Because they don’t want to wear seatbelts while clearing brush, or whatever it is they do, the rest of the state loses out on millions in federal highway dollars. Don’t just support life when it comes to stem cells or abortion, support it with everything if thats what you believe in. He was the Insurance Commissioner right? So this should be right down his alley.


December 14th, 2009
1:25 pm

Supports life, but is for the death penalty?!?!?!?! Never understood that way of thinking. Didn’t think you could be for both.

The Truth

December 14th, 2009
1:31 pm

Hey, Not in the Hunt. I like your use of big words like bloviating but is that the best you can do? I care about the GOP and want to go back to having both sides of the issues discussed so we can reach a common good as Georgians not as partisan hacks. It is too sad to see you so blind to the world around you….wake up!


December 14th, 2009
1:33 pm

Ox “supports life?” Then that means he’s all about getting affordable health insurance and medical care for ALL Georgians, including the ones that are currently denied coverage by private ins. companies, or whose two or three part-time jobs don’t offer coverage. Obviously, we’ll get nothing from the schmucks in DC (except a bill that benefits the insurance companies), so let’s see OX get us a public option! Woo-HOOOO! Watch him put his money where his mouth is and actually SAVE live. GO LIFE! (No really, start right now. We’re waiting.)


December 14th, 2009
2:08 pm

Where to begin? Georgia politics is a mess, has been for a while. First off, have you ever noticed that the plantation owners – er, excuse me, “legislators” – want Atlanta’s money but will turn a deaf ear to Atlanta’s needs? There are many reasons for this, but the bottom is that no amount of “house cleaning” will change this. Atlanta is the milk cow who gives more and more while being fed less and less. That mentality ain’t gonna change any time soon.

Second, the “major religious conservative organizations” find their base outside of Atlanta. Look at median income, level of education, etc., and you’ll see that Atlanta’s above the curve compared to its Southern brethren. They say God’s for the poor, and the “major religious conservative organizations” don’t want a little intelligence among their constituents to get in the way of their spoon-fed fear and hate-mongering. Will more education decrease the number of right-to-lifers? Not necessarily, no. But the “major religious conservative organizations” don’t want to try. Fear is a more powerful motivator than love.

Education? There are some superb teachers among our Southern brethren. But it’s interesting, in Georgia any way, that one’s ability to teach negates proportionally one’s ability to administrate. Or so the Southern “skewl” boards would have us believe. Think about it. Georgia spends $13K/yr per student. But Georgia students aren’t getting any smarter. Wonder where the money goes?

We could find out, but we won’t. Because no matter much “cleaning” they do, spit and polish, etc., it’s still going to be the same machine lubricated by the same grease and conducted by the students of the current engineers. It can be fixed, but it’s gonna take voter involvement, and the conductors are great at switching tracks without the voters’ knowledge. “Don’t worry about how the machine works,” they say. “We know how to do it. Y’all go run and play now.”

Second verse, same as the first….

Winfield J. Abbe

December 14th, 2009
2:21 pm

If you rent an apartment or house to a tenant in Georgia, lease or not, as soon as you give them the keys you, the owner, loses all control of your property thanks to a cowardly and outlaw legislature that has hijacked a citizen’s basic right to contract with other citizens. No matter what lies the tenant tells the landlord verbally or in writing, here is the procedure an owner is told by local courts they are forced to follow to remove any tenant they have rented to:
1. First, the landlord must go to the local magistrate’s court and pay money to the court.
2. Second the local sheriff must “serve” the tenant with papers disclosing the claims against them.
Most of the time the sheriff is only required to serve the papers by “tacking” or taping them to the door of the place where the tenant is usually allowed to squat without paying rent. This means that while the landlord may then be able to use this notice to ultimately obtain his property back, he many not obtain a money judgment without filing another meaningless lawsuit in another prejudiced court of Georgia.
3. If the landlord seeks to have the sheriff serve the papers “personally”, marked “personally served”, chances are they will never be served and the tenant will be permitted to remain in control of the property indefinitely. Only if they are personally served can the landlord obtain a money judgment unless the tenant files an answer to the papers served by “tacking”.
4. It usually takes over a week just for the sheriff to “serve” the tenant permitting at least this minimum amount of time for the tenant to remain without paying any rent.
5. Should the tenant then demand a hearing, this will usually require another few weeks to set, allowing the tenant to remain all that time.
6. Following the hearing, most judges allow more time. Then the papers ordering eviction must be carried out by the sheriff which require a few more weeks and more money paid to them by the landlord. All this time the tenant is permitted to camp out and hold possession of the landlord’s property without paying any rent. Even in the event he or she answers the claim, a judgment will not be issued for more than one month and usually the judge will not even honor the late charges in any agreement let alone anything else in the landlord’s favor the system is so corrupt and flawed. And if a judgment is issued, “collect if you can” from deadbeats. All this time can and often is used by the tenant to destroy the property too. None of this is usually necessary. All could and should be provided for by contract between tenant and landlord and most of the time it is totally unnecessary to have the sheriff there at all.
For motels and hotels, all they do when someone does not pay is call the police who evict the lying tenants immediately for “free”. One set of rules for store front businesses, another for landlords who routinely receive the shaft by the totally failed and illegal landlord tenant law of Georgia that the cowardly and corrupt legislature has totally failed to address for years now.
Billions of dollars are extorted from landlords over this state for this gross failure of government which encourages thieves to maintain control of property in which they have no, zero interest, with the aid of the state, virtually confiscating the property that the owners are forced to pay taxes on from them with impunity. Shame, shame, shame on the corrupt thieves of the good for nothing Georgia Legislature and Governor. Evidently the landlords of Georiga have not bribed them enough as the others lobbyists do to obtain the laws in their favor.
These corrupt outlaw lawmakers and their dupe courts, routinely totally violate the federal Constitution, the “Supreme” law of the land, with their illegal landlord tenant law: “No state may pass any law imparing the obligations of a private contract.” That is exactly what the illegal landlord tenant law does in Georgia. Any landlord who seeks to write a contract that permits changing the locks, turning off utilities and transferring all remaining property to the landlord after a tenant is told to leave, will be placed in jail, as I was in the Robin Hood Communist cesspool Athens Clarke County, if they seek to enforce the contract which the courts and its dupe “officers of the law”of Georgia will illegally disregard! We live in a country of outlaws today, and the courts and judges and lawmakers of Georgia are at the top of the heap. Georgia is a corrupt cesspool where lying cheating tenants are permitted to commit theft by deception and fraud against landlords with the help and aid of courts and law enforcement officers and the legislature itself which violated the U.S. Constitution with its patently illegal law, illegally enforced and illegally administered by its Kangaroo courts. We might as well be living in the former Soviet Union or Nazi, Germany so many brave ancestors fought so hard to rid the world of. It is obvious that most courts are so easy on deadbeat tenants because the fear what some of them might do should they be harshly treated for their often total misconduct toward the landlord and failure to behave in a civilized manner. Georgia obviously has the best corrupt government money can buy.
Winfield J. Abbe, Ph.D., Physics
150 Raintree Ct.
Athens, GA 30607

Paula Tiki

December 14th, 2009
2:28 pm

First, it’s John Lunsford, not Charles.

Second, why is Wilkinson safe? As Ethics chair, he did nothing to investigate the Speaker’s conflict of interest.

Green green

December 14th, 2009
3:11 pm

@Paula: YEAH! I got questions about Wilkinson….

dogs & cats

December 14th, 2009
3:32 pm

wilkenson, miller & keen are close friends. they all knew what was happening and are jealous that they didn’t get any….


December 14th, 2009
4:13 pm

If “dogs and cats” knows so much, surely we could get a correct spelling on those names.

Jill Chambers is a nut so I would certainly question anyone she is supporting with so much vigor.

Intown lib

December 14th, 2009
4:58 pm

Chambers is a bit of nut. An honest nut, but a nut nonetheless.


December 14th, 2009
5:03 pm

Its a sad day when it appears that the leading person to replace the first lie filled Repulican Speakers seat is the man that made all those deals to let SONNY get by without paying his share. WHAT A MESS WE GEORGIANS ARE IN !!!!!

Good Government

December 14th, 2009
5:21 pm

Jill Chambers sounds like a pretty good person based on what I’ve read and seen. Good for her for putting her neck out there.

Given the facts as they are right now, David Ralston would be an excellent choice to be Speaker of the House and get that House in order.

Next project needs to be to get the Senate in order and to do that, we will need a new Lt. Governor. I recommend that Eric Johnson drop his long shot big for Governor and run for Lt. Governor in a primary against Casey Cagle.

Not only would he win, but then we’d have a balanced slate of leaders – A Speaker from North Georgia, a Governor from Atlanta (Karen Handel), and a Lt. Governor from the Coast.

Good Gubmit

December 14th, 2009
6:05 pm

Jill Chambers in leadership!!!! Give me a break. She is a flat out loony toon. Didn’t her hubby threaten a couple of the legislators involved with Dunwoody also? Very creepy. And how do you get respect when you have this nutso video out there forever?

Good Government

December 14th, 2009
6:25 pm

Okay so she was completely wrong on that issue…


December 14th, 2009
6:32 pm

Yeah, the Republicans need to look deep inside themselves because they’re about to implode here. The only thing they have going for them is that the Dems are so weak. Most of them have yet to wake up to how angry a diverse group of people have been over the whole Jekyll Island fiasco. Perdue’s stuffing the Jekyll Island Authority with developers and such so that Linger Longer (read: payback for bucks from Mercer and Jamie Reynolds) could so some massive development on a fragile barrier island still smells. Jerry Keen knows a lot about that deal, I would guess. And Jamie Reynolds is involved in Eric Johnson’s campaign for governor. I agree: it’s time for some serious house cleaning at the Captiol. Frat party should be over.


December 14th, 2009
8:04 pm

Getting Jill Chambers off the MARTOC committee would be the best thing for MARTA. Just like the people of Dunwoody should be allowed to vote on whether to create a city, the people that counties and cities that pay MARTA taxes should have control over how MARTA tax revenue is used.

Although Jill Chambers is from a DeKalb County District — she has been unresponsive to MARTA’s need for flexibility and reneged on her promise to support legislation to give MARTA that fiscal flexibility if MARTA got a clean audit. MARTA recently got a clean audit from USDOT — while GDOT failed miserably. But still Jill reneged on her promise.

She claimed the car-lease program was irresponsible and lost millions –MARTA made money on the program and then got out of the business.

Its a pity that the GOP cannot find a Chairman for the MARTOC committee that it at least neutral on MARTA. Jill Chambers is dedicated to seeing MARTA fail.

Bill Orvis White

December 14th, 2009
11:25 pm

Once you open the floodgates of Abortiob-on-Demand and Stem Cell research, you’re creating a culture that debases human life. Do you want a culture that disrespects human life in The South? No, we need to be the leader when it comes advancing Christ-centered principles that eventually leads to choice in who you want to worship, where you wish to live and what you want to buy. They don’t get those choices in Chavez’s Venezuela, you Seculars out there! We need to bring back men with morals like Speaker Richardson, Secretary Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney, Governor Huckabee and Attorney Gen. Ashcroft back into government so that low/no taxe$, a culture of life and God return to this once-great free country. We are not free right now. We are embarking on a course of Godless Socialism whereby Democracy becomes extinct. God Bless and Merry Christmas, Bill Orvis White


December 15th, 2009
12:13 am

All this would be amusing if the consequences for Georgia weren’t so serious.

When is the other kneepad going to drop on the other side of the Gold Dome?

common sense

December 15th, 2009
9:51 am

How about getting some leadership that will pass laws based on research and effectiveness, instead of pandering to a populace educated by Nancy Grace? There are so many “sex offenders” in the state of Georgia (most of whom pose, by report of the Governor’s own Sex Registry Review Board) little or no threat to society, that law enforcement can’t keep track of the true predators. Talk about a waste of money — Oh, I forgot, though, it is an easy way for a lazy Republican politician to get votes . . .