Senate Democrats on the Sunday sales bill: ‘Rules? What rules?’

Notice to state Senators: You do not have to cite the Political Insider in order to be quoted. That said, it doesn’t hurt.

Sen. Doug Stoner of Smyrna and two other Democrats, Steve Thompson of Powder Springs and Steve Henson of Tucker, laid out their concerns over Senate Republican handling of SB 10, the Sunday sales bill – and their worries that it could bode ill for the way the chamber conducts future business.

Below is a transcript of Stoner’s remarks:

My fellow senators, I come to the well today to register my disappointment.

Disappointment in the failure of this legislative body, the Georgia Senate, to live up to its proud past and traditions as an institution of open debate.

An institution of open debate governed by rules agreed to by all those who are elected and serve in this chamber. A set of rules agreed too that allows all members of this body to represent their districts, their communities, and their constituents.

State Sen. Doug Stoner, D-Smyrna. Ben Gray, bgray@ajc.com

State Sen. Doug Stoner, D-Smyrna. Ben Gray, bgray@ajc.com

A set of rules that allows all senators, be they long time veterans or first time freshmen, to do what the citizens of this state elected us to do and expect us to do. Our duty.

A duty that the each senator agreed to, when they offered themselves to their fellow citizens as their representative in this body.

A duty that we would use our judgment and our convictions in representing our districts, our communities, and our constituents to decide the issues that would come before this body.

A duty that would be carried out no matter how complex, tough, or unpleasant an issue is.

My fellow senators, we can no longer carry out that duty to which we were elected to do.

What is preventing us carrying out our duty? Because we no longer have a set of rules that we as senators, have agreed upon to govern this chamber.

We as a legislative body, we as the Georgia Senate, we as senators adopted a set of rules on the first day of this session. A set of rules adopted by Senators from both sides of the aisle.

Now, I for one did not vote in support of these particular rules, but I was prepared as a member of this chamber to follow those rules, voted in by the majority of my fellow senators. In spite of the particular issues that led up to these new set of rules, they still allowed each senator to carry out their duty for which they where elected to perform in this chamber.

But last week I was informed that these rules do not actually apply. When was I informed of this? You may ask if we had a meeting of leadership of both sides to discuss this change? No such meeting took place. I was informed, as many of you were, by the Fourth Estate.

In particular, by one of the more august members of that estate, Mr. Galloway and his Political Insider blog. Unfortunately, Mr. Galloway is not here to hear these comments, because I have found over the years in my service at the Capitol that Mr. Galloway is unusually accurate for a member of the Fourth Estate in explaining what is actually happening under the Gold Dome.

It was in his last Thursday’s afternoon blog that a quote from the Majority Leader informed me and all other senators that these new rules no longer applied to this body.

The senator from the 21st [Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers of Woodstock] was quoted in answering to an inquiry from Mr. Galloway on why Senate Bill 10, otherwise known as, Sunday sales, would not come before this body.

The senator from the 21st stated and I quote:

“There’s just not support to move forward. This is how we handle every single bill. The debate was made, the discussion was had—which is a thorough and deliberate process. I know some people were frustrated that we didn’t move quicker. But we took our time. Everybody had their opportunity. Everybody had a chance to go back and listen to their constituents—which I think is the most important thing.” Unquote.

To say the least I was surprised if not dismayed at the comments of the senator from the 21st. I’m hoping that for once Mr. Galloway did not get his facts straight. That the senator from the 21st was misquoted or taken out of context. I mean that sincerely. The senator from the 21st and I were freshmen together in the House, and came together to the Senate as freshmen six years ago.

My fellow colleague from Cobb County and I have worked together on many issues over the years. In fact, we are co-sponsors on Senate Bill 10. Occasionally, we have been on the opposite sides on issues. But as many of us who have served in this body with the senator from the 21st know, he welcomes debate on the issues. He enjoys debates. As many of us have learned from experience, he is a great debater.

That is why I was puzzled when I learned of his comments.

My good friend, the senator from the 21st, is quoted as saying:

“The debate was made.” Where I ask was that debate made? Not on this floor.

He said the discussion was had? Again I ask, where was the discussion had? We have had no discussions on the floor of this chamber concerning this issue.

He said everybody had their opportunity. What opportunity is he referring to? There has been no opportunity for open debate on this particular bill.

But it is his quote concerning the process that should concern us all.

He said this is how we handle “every single bill”.

Because, if the quote is accurate, then these new rules that were vigorously argued about, voted on, and finally adopted are meaningless. They are meaningless because the process to guarantee open debate and allow every member of this body to perform their duty for their constituents has been thwarted.

Under previous leadership, Republican or Democratic, what has distinguished the Senate from the House is our adherence to our adopted rules that govern this body. As a former House member, I can say that the rules of the House are more like guidelines when it comes to the process. But that has not been the tradition in the Senate. The Georgia Senate has always prided itself as the chamber, which followed its rules.

But that is no longer the case. A small group of members of this chamber have decided to substitute a new set of rules that was not adopted by this body.

They have decided to substitute their judgment in place of each senator’s judgment. A judgment that the citizens of their district elected them to use in deciding issues before this body.

But the most potential damage to this institution is the inability of each senator to perform their duty for their district, their community, and their constituents.

What does the word duty mean? Well I looked it up. The word “duty”comes from the Latin root word “debitum” — that which is owing. In other words, a debt.

So, if, we as senators of this chamber cannot perform our duty to use our judgment and convictions in deciding issues in open debate before this body, because a small group has already decided for us, then we have failed to honor the debt to which we owe our districts, our communities, and our constituents.

If we continue down this path then this legislative body, this chamber, this Senate has failed all Georgians.

Mr. President, I yield the well.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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70 comments Add your comment

GaBlue

February 22nd, 2011
5:46 pm

Excellent, Mr. Galloway! **applause! applause!**

Thanks for doing YOUR job while so many under the Gold Dome refuse to do [or adopt unauthorized descriptions for] theirs!

Wow

February 22nd, 2011
5:56 pm

Right on Doug Stoner! That’s some of the best political rhetoric/speechifyin’ we’ve seen down in these parts in a long time.

albert

February 22nd, 2011
5:58 pm

If you listen you can hear Casey Cagle laughing now. Rogers and Williams are jokes.

DJ Sniper

February 22nd, 2011
6:02 pm

Wow. Doug Stoner went in on Chip Rogers and everybody else who was part of this farce. Now I really really want to know who voted against Sunday sales, and whose idea it was to do it this way in the first place. Let’s find out who is in whose pocket.

Brenda

February 22nd, 2011
6:19 pm

My goodness! It does appear that not only have the Senate Republicans disappointed their Republican constituents by not following the basic tenants of Republicanism on their handling of SB 10, they also managed to undermine their relationship with their peers in the Senate chamber. Come out to the Sunday Sales Rally tomorrow at noon on the steps on the Washington Street (west) side of the capitol.

beachwriter

February 22nd, 2011
6:22 pm

Oh, that’s good! I hope Chip Rogers, et al, are squirming like a dog covered in fleas. What a sorry bunch of rats they are.

Douglas

February 22nd, 2011
6:30 pm

The senator from the 21st is full of excrement.

Thank you Sen. Stoner for shining a light down this dark hole where the Repubs show how they really feel about the citizens of this state who, for some reason, have voted them into office. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves, because we have done this to ourselves.

Toes the Line

February 22nd, 2011
6:53 pm

Every time one party (Democrats or Republicans) gains a comfortable majority in any legislative chamber, they become the same abusive bunch of power-drunk hooligans as the bunch they threw out to begin with.

SJ

February 22nd, 2011
6:53 pm

The Republicans, hiding behind the secret vote of its Caucus, wants this issue to go away. We need to keep the pressure up on them.

I wish I could be there at the Capitol tomorrow.

Jimbo Murray

February 22nd, 2011
6:54 pm

If I were asked to give Casey Cagle some advice, I would strongly urge him to go into the districts of Tommie Williams and Chip Rogers, etc. and FIND THEM SOME OPPOSITION.!!! This would stop this crap in the Senate. Turn-about is fair play.

ProgressivePeach

February 22nd, 2011
6:56 pm

Ironic that Rogers last year was accusing the president of fascism. Guess we know who the real fascist is, don’t we.

Earl

February 22nd, 2011
7:02 pm

The Dems never, ever, ever do a whip count to see if a bill has enough support….the Dems, for the 200 years they were the majority, never excluded the minority Republicans when they wanted to pass/kill a piece of legislation (toungue firmly in cheek). For my part, I wish SB 10 came to the floor for a vote. I wanted it to pass. But to pee all over the Republicans for standard lawmaking process is a little overblown. Come on, this is civics 101. When the Dems are in power, that’s how they do things too. Blame the system if you want, but this is far from Rogers/Williams over-reaching for power. This is called lawmaking. To paraphrase Churchill, it’s the worst system out there…except for all the others.

Maynard Brown

February 22nd, 2011
7:09 pm

Indeed these Republican Senators that are denying inclusion of the Senate Democrats in voting are definitely Facists!! This vote that would allow alcohol to be sold on Sundays is vital to our economy. In my community of West End, Atlanta we have untaxed “shot houses” that do a big business on Sundays with no taxes collected. Sometimes these “shot houses” dispense some bad ’shine and a few brothers have died in the process. So what do these GOP white-bread dudes want to do…keep killing my people, that’s what!! This is racistic policy and we need to make these evil dudes accountible.

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A dad

February 22nd, 2011
7:11 pm

Dear Republican State Senators – when it comes time to re-elect my offical, if you voted to shelf SB10, I’m voting to shelve you. You represent a narrow, but vocal and influential, segment of your constituency, but not the majority. When it comes to elections, numbers, not lobbyists, presents, dinners, vacations, etc., count the most. You’re all history.

Jezel

February 22nd, 2011
7:17 pm

Earl it does not matter who is in power when there is no debate in a legislative chamber about a controversial bill. For those senators who are trying to kill the bill…to not step forward and take responsibility…is…well…cowardly. Some one knows their names. Who are they?

Brenda

February 22nd, 2011
7:20 pm

Earl, for my part I consider them all to have outstayed their welcome. Civics 101? Yep, except both parties usually manage to keep their games under the Gold Bubble and behind those big doors. It’s not often that “We the People” have been able to expose their shenanigans to the sunlight. The Sunday Sales Rally is tomorrow.

Road Scholar

February 22nd, 2011
7:20 pm

So the “Christian” right can not turn the other cheek! That one is for those who whine “that’s the way the Dems did/would do it”.This state is stuck in neutral…no reverse! And the vehicle is being driven by children!

oldfart

February 22nd, 2011
7:21 pm

Agreed Earl. Don’t like it but Georgia has been run this way for years, not that I’ve liked it, regardless of party in power. Tom Murphy had more power than most of the Governors and his say so was required to get a bill out of a House committee. The shame about this one is that it made it through committee and still didn’t get a public debate/vote on the floor. Perhaps a wrinkle to the current system is called for even if it is like watching sausage being made. Maybe adding the whip count meeting to the public meetings requirements would be enough to stifle this sort of thing in the future.

SouthsideI Shawty

February 22nd, 2011
7:26 pm

I will definitely be at the capital tomorrow at noon!!

Don’t blame me, I voted for the democrat.

Earl

February 22nd, 2011
7:26 pm

oldfart,
Just FYI, the whip count is simply the party’s whip calling all the sentators, or meeting them in the hall and asking “Which way ya leaning.” Hard to make that a public meeting. But I certainly get your point.

Excuse Me

February 22nd, 2011
7:27 pm

Looks like the liquor lobby is out in full force.

Who put them in charge

February 22nd, 2011
7:29 pm

Who put Rogers and Company in charge in the Senate? They have rolled over for a vocal minority of bible thumpers, and they deserve to be recalled, or stripped of their power in the Senate.

Jezel

February 22nd, 2011
7:29 pm

So the party’s whip knows who is against the bill. Who is the party whip?

cs

February 22nd, 2011
8:09 pm

boo hoo hoo……………let the democrats show they are different…let them introduce a bill with the chamber nuts support to let us vote on the 1956 flag like the people wanted and many still want !!! :)

SOU. GA . IRISH

February 22nd, 2011
8:12 pm

Enter your comments here

Big E

February 22nd, 2011
8:15 pm

These republicans that some of us voted in office should be voted out the same way.Rogers is a power hungry fool!.

Brenda

February 22nd, 2011
8:23 pm

Excuse Me, when you say liquor lobby, who do you mean?

SOU. GA . IRISH

February 22nd, 2011
8:24 pm

This has far more to do with political ambition than anything else. The three leaders who run the senate
(Williams, Rogers, and Goggans) all aspire to statewide office or ones in D.C. They don”t want to be
tagged with this down the road. Moreover, they don’t want to be tagged now with squelching “local control”. My guess is that plenty of votes were available in the republican caucus for passage, when
combined with those of the other party which were in favor, but not at the risk of loss of committee chairmanships.

Jezel

February 22nd, 2011
8:38 pm

sou. GA. Irish are you saying that Williams, Rogers and Goggans are the senators who got the bill bogged down? If they are the ones behind it then they should be run out of the state. Maybe we should hold them accountable and make an example of them.

RBN

February 22nd, 2011
8:42 pm

The problem is single party control in Georgia. Rogers and Williams are dangerous to the future of Georgia. The difference when Democrats were in control was that a Lt. Governor, accountable to the entire state, ran the Senate, not a small minded cabal who represent a safe seat dominated by right wing religious conservatives.

Earl

February 22nd, 2011
8:45 pm

Rogers was a co-sponsor of the bill and has said several times that he wanted it to pass.

SOU. GA . IRISH

February 22nd, 2011
8:45 pm

Yes, emphactically.

SOU. GA . IRISH

February 22nd, 2011
8:49 pm

Earl,
If you believe anything happens in the senate w/o Roger’s approval, I have some ocean front property in Kansas I would like to discuss with you.

Earl

February 22nd, 2011
8:55 pm

So, you’re telling me that he co-sponsored the bill just so he could kill it? That a great majority of the people in his district are for it, but he wanted to go the other way? Look, if you want to pick up the pitchforks and torches and go after those who shut down this bill — if this bill is the one that is so important to you — that is your right. As a matter of fact, that is your responsibility. My only suggestion is that it may be more worth your while to go after those who have not publically stated their position. Might be more productive.

Thomas

February 22nd, 2011
9:08 pm

Thanks Mr. Galloway for helping us get our opinion heard. Behind closed door meetings are not trustworthy and need to be stopped. “WE THE PEOPLE” were lost in the minds of the power grabbing public servants that were sent to Atlanta.

SOU. GA . IRISH

February 22nd, 2011
9:20 pm

Earl,
If one adds his signature (cosponsors a bill), and publicly states his support, he satisfies the majority
of his consitituency. If he helps kill the bill in private, he protects his political posterior for larger stakes
in the future.

Ed

February 22nd, 2011
9:35 pm

Rogers has co-sponsored the legislation for three years! This year he was the 2nd signer on the Bill. As the Senate Majority leader, he is the voice for the majority caucus. He has consistently voiced his support for it and allowing local counties to decide. He has promoted it multiple times. However, you all think that it’s one person who makes these decisions. In the past it has been…Casey Cagle and how did that work out…It was died in Regulated Industries for two years.
So, quit complaining and placing blame on one Senator, who is for Sunday Sales and has been consistent about it and CALL YOUR SENATOR. If you’re not willing to do that, then quit your whinning.

Barry

February 22nd, 2011
9:36 pm

Bravo, Sen. Stoner!

Diehard

February 22nd, 2011
9:38 pm

I will buy Doug Stoner’s airplane ticket if he’ll go give that speech to his fellow Democrat Senators in Wisconsin . . . bet that would make the lib labor leaders in Sen. Stoner’s district real happy. Add special emphasis to this part, Sen. Stoned, “A duty that would be carried out no matter how complex, tough, or unpleasant an issue is.”

Olderandwiser49

February 22nd, 2011
9:50 pm

I am a conservative, and I was overjoyed to see so many Republicans elected to office. That “joy” just hit the ground with a sickening thud. I feel like I’m watching Obama & Co., with the backroom caucus, in closed meetings, deciding what does and doesn’t get voted on by the entire body. They don’t want to be forced to vote in the open, because then they would have to make a decision – vote as their constituents want, and lose the money of the special interest groups, or vote for the special interests, and lose their next election. They all need to crawl back under their rocks, and shouldn’t come back out until they grow a backbone!

Mr X

February 22nd, 2011
9:58 pm

Stoner would be a dead end Democrat even if the Democrats were in charge.

robert

February 22nd, 2011
10:25 pm

If the Republicans were really concerned about raising revenue in the state why would they not at least entertain alcohol sales on sunday. All they want to do is hurt education in a state where it is already pretty bad. They are all talk about the tax system, yet when a commission has come up with some very good ideas, they have to sit on their hands and think about. Can’t you republicans think on your feet and do what the people elected you to do and improve the state of Georgia for its citizens. Quit using the legislative session as a vacation from your regular jobs in which you are still screwing the people when you are at home. Don’t keep hitting us with this double whammy.

truth

February 22nd, 2011
10:27 pm

SOU.GA. IRISH, you are right on target. I, too, know that all three, Rogers, Williams and Goggans, have higher political aspirations. I agree with RBN, they are dangerous to Georgia’s future. Rogers ambitions frighten me the most. Goggans and, probably, Willliams have the financial means to win whatever office they want. As we all know, if enough money is spent in the right places, any race can be won. I live in the district of one of these three and have voted for him in the past, but never again!
To Senator Stoner, THANK YOU! I applaud you for your courage and honesty.

yuzeyurbrain

February 22nd, 2011
11:25 pm

This is not the only legislation that is decided by a handful behind closed doors. Of course, this satisfies powerful lobbies with a lot of money to throw around. An example? The nursing home lobby through its well-connected lobbyist has quietly killed legislation to allow more seniors to live longer in assisted living despite the fact that an overwhelming % of senior citizens want it and even though it would enhance a policy that would save the state a lot of money (80% of nursing home revenues come from Medicaid). Money talks, politicians walk.

sogal

February 22nd, 2011
11:42 pm

Well said Sen. Stoner. This Bill should have been allowed to come to a vote for no other reason than the fact that there are strong opinions on both sides and the path followed by Sen. Rogers and others does not reflect conservative republican principles. Heck, if you read between the lines, the behind-closed-door vote may have been close and votes from democratic senators may have tipped the scal one way or the other. The Repub Caucus approach robbed everyone of seeing what the full body of the Senate may have voted to do. The approach followed in this case did nothing more than to protect political careers.

rooster

February 22nd, 2011
11:47 pm

oldfart reminds us that bills which have had majority support in the Senate have sometimes not made it to a vote. One of the most significant was the bill back in 1971 to expand Atlanta City to include almost all of incorporated North Fulton. Carter was Governor. The bill passed the House and would have passed the Senate, but the presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Lester Madox, wouldn’t bring in to a vote.
This happens at the national level also. Remember that Nixon and Carter both had health care reform bills snuffed out by a Senate committee. Carter’s bill had passed in the House and had plenty of votes to pass in the Senate, but was bottled up in committee. And who was the Chair of the committee that stopped two widely supported health bills? Why, it was Teddy Kennedy, he of the supposed commitment to improving access to health care.
Atlanta would have had a greatly improved tax base for the past 40 years, but for the refusal of the Lt. Governor to allow a vote. And the nation would have had a health care cost-containment and catastrophic coverage system for the past 30 years that would surely have prevented the development of the monstrosity adopted under this administration, but for the politically motivated intransigence of a single senator.
Unfortunately, the Sunday sales episode is only the latest case in a pretty extensive history of the legislative majorities being thwarted by one person or by a handful of people.

Lenny

February 23rd, 2011
12:03 am

I hope the senate republicans will reconsider and let this bill come before the full senate for a vote. It will pass if they do and I think that is what the majority of the people in this state want.

jim

February 23rd, 2011
6:21 am

same old BS, no wonder our country is upside down.

Phil Lunney

February 23rd, 2011
6:38 am

This was supposed to be the year, the new Governor said he would sign the bill, evrything was ready and the State of Georgia had the potential for up to $5,000,000 in additional revenue. Now, no vote? Let’s see who is for this and who is against it. If the Christian lobby is against it, why don’t they make up the revenues to the state from their collection baskets. If you want to rule the legislature then pay your way.