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.
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