Lobbyists and lawmakers hung around the state Capitol late Thursday afternoon, hoping to see House Speaker David Ralston’s list of committee chairman. It didn’t happen.
Instead, Ralston released two statements within minutes of each other. The first rescinded the appointment of all “hawks” – lawmakers who carried the authority to join any committee at any time in order to push a particular vote.
“While this system was initiated to enable House committees to more readily meet their quorum requirements, it has become a tool used strictly for partisan purposes,” Ralston said. “Under my leadership, I am committed to working across the aisle and ensuring an equal voice to all House members no matter their party affiliation.”
The news came as no surprise to House Republicans. Ralston had told them he would do it at a caucus meeting earlier in the week. It was one of the points of his brief campaign for the speaker’s job.
One assumes this will be followed up with a change in the House rules.
Also Thursday evening, Ralston had accepted the resignation of state Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton) as chairman of the House Governmental Affairs Committee. The speaker had put out the word that he thought there was an inherent conflict in chairman one of his committees and running for higher office.
Scott is a candidate for governor. Said Ralston of the Tifton lawmaker: “I praise him for his statesman-like action for putting the House first. He has the qualities of a true leader that Georgians should be proud of. This action will enable him to spread his reform message across the state that I believe Georgians will find appealing.”
While not an endorsement, Ralston’s description of his House colleague is still significant — given that, during the Glenn Richardson regime, House leaders were lined up squarely behind U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal in the contest for governor.
As my AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin pointed out, one could also view Ralston’s remarks as a shot at former secretary of state Karen Handel, who has been making shenanigans in the Legislature a favorite topic.
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