More sunshine would help crimp last-minute lawmaking
January 23, 2014 12:01 AM | 2943 views | 0 0 comments | 71 71 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The last day of Georgia’s annual 40-day legislative session is famous throughout the state for its combination of marathon manipulation, skullduggery, deal-making and general confusion. It’s a murky setting for outsiders looking in while trying to keep track of key legislation as the midnight hour nears; and it’s nearly as opaque for insiders as well.

Now a lawmaker reportedly is on the verge of proposing a pair of ways of lessening that chaos.

State Sen. Joshua McKoon (R-Columbus) is considering two options, according to a story reported Tuesday by The Associated Press.

The first would involve introducing a resolution to formally change the Senate rules so as to require that members of that chamber get more than the currently required one hour on the final day to look over a bill before they are asked to vote on it. The benefits of such a change are self-explanatory.

The second would be to introduce an amendment to the state Constitution, a long and laborious process.

Either option would require a two-thirds vote of the Senate. In the case of the constitutional amendment, it would also require action along the way by the House, the governor and the state’s voters.

Obviously, Option One would be the simpler and timelier way to go.

There’s little question that there’s a need for such a change. As the AP story noted, last-minute changes are common as the clock winds down on the final day. Some of those changes are innocuous, others are accidental and some are, as the AP put it, “downright devious.” It cited as an example a routine hunting and fishing bill that was transformed on the final night into an attempt to undermine disclosure requirements at the state’s ethics watchdog agency. And last year a final-night version of a bill meant to set spending limits for lobbyists wound up establishing major loopholes for lawyers and the state’s university system.

As McKoon said of the frenzied last-day lawmaking, “It winds up producing bad public policy.”

No question. And lengthening the session beyond 40 days is not the answer.

“I think the best way to solve that is to introduce some sunshine into the equation,” McKoon said.

The Georgia Statehouse is not a place that enjoys a surplus of sunshine, and any steps that can introduce more are worth a full exploration.
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