Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Crossover Day Vote Sends Georgia Primary Bill to the State Senate

Wednesday marked the 30th day of the 2011 legislative session in the Georgia General Assembly; the deadline by which legislation has to be passed in one chamber of the legislature in order for the other chamber to consider it (before the 40 day session is adjourned). Among the bills up for the deadline vote -- and it was tough to see it when seemingly everyone following crossover day in Georgia was more interested in the Senate vote to allow the Sunday sale of alcohol1 -- was the House bill to shift the presidential primary date-setting authority from the legislature to the office of the secretary of state. As FHQ has mentioned previously, HB 454, would give the Peach state the flexibility to adapt more easily -- and more quickly -- to changing national party rules regarding the timing of primaries and caucuses allocating presidential delegates. More to the point, it would allow the secretary of state the ability to -- like the secretary of state in New Hampshire -- more easily set the date of the state's primary at a point that is first, competitive, but also maximizes Georgia's influence over the presidential nomination process.

That is a power that is unique to New Hampshire, though similar actions have been taken in Arizona to give the, in the Grand Canyon state's case, governor the ability to set the primary on a "better" date should the date called for by state law -- the fourth Tuesday in February -- fall outside of the window of influence. Georgia, then, is attempting to join a select few states with this ability and the bipartisan effort to accomplish this passed the House by a vote of 153Y-21N. The potential for added flexibility was cited by proponents of the measure while the few opponents brought up the constitutional balance of power between the legislative and executive branches.

One additional note that should be made is that Georgia was in the exact same position four years ago. It was around the same time that the Georgia House passed HB 487 by a similar margin in 2007. That bill was intended to shift the Peach state's presidential primary from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February. The state Senate subsequently passed a different version of the bill that did not pass the House when the altered bill was returned to its house of origin. A last minute amendment to a separate elections bill saved the cause of the earlier presidential primary date and brought it into effect. The moral here is that the legislative process happens. That said, this bill does seem to have bipartisan back -- in terms of its sponsorship -- and we'll have to see how far that takes in the Senate over the final ten legislative days of the session.

Hat tip to Andre Walker at Georgia Politics Unfiltered for passing this news along.

1This is an annual rite of spring in the Georgia General Assembly. The Sunday sales issue always comes up and is always voted down. Usually, however, it is defeated in committee. Not in 2011. The bill (SB 10) passed the Senate and now heads to the House.

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