Pass a responsible budget and go home. One might think this to be a wise strategy for the majority Republican legislators in the General Assembly in this, a year of an uncommonly short session and elections in the fall.
It hasn’t been that way. ‘Social issues’ have recently been front and center – expanded gun rights, expanded religious freedom protections, and making English the official language of Georgia, for three examples.
We know: The moral obligation of lawmakers is to govern in good conscience and to represent the political will of their constituents. Doubtless those sponsoring and supporting the above three legislative initiatives listed above are doing just that.
But none of these bills could become law without a Republican governor to sign off on bills that might reach his desk.
For about a decade, most GOP legislators have acted under the presumption that Georgia not only is a solidly red state, but that it will continue to be that way the same way that the sun will continue to shine – without anybody doing anything.
Political dynamics likely will change before November, and Deal is with little doubt still the favorite. But Republican legislators might want to take note of these polls, and of the fact that Georgia’s demographics are trending Democrat. Democrats may have lost Georgia as soon as they did partly out of complacency that bordered on arrogance. The GOP shouldn’t consider itself exempt from a similar happening.
Making English the official language of the state makes intuitive sense, at least in regard to requiring that drivers should be able to read traffic signs. This isn’t only conservatism; it’s pragmatism too.
But the legislation on expanded gun rights is ill-timed for this year’s legislative session. If it passes the General Assembly and reaches the governor, he will be in an election-year bind, as we’ve previously reported. If he vetoed it, he would alienate much of his political base. Were he to sign it into law, the Democrats would turn it into campaign TV ads targeting the critical demographic of undecided women.
Republicans should ask themselves: Would the presumed benefits of this gun legislation be worth the risk of having women voters put Jason Carter in the Governor’s Mansion?
Likewise the legislation to allow Georgia businesses to invoke their religious beliefs to deny services to particular populations – for example, gay people wanting to have wedding receptions – is ill-advised in its present, hazy form.
Though these bills have little or no chance of passage this year, their journey through the committee system in both the House and the Senate has drawn media ire from all over the nation. That criticism may not always be fair or based on the facts, but it’s a political reality nevertheless.
Politics is about tradeoffs. At least it is now, in 2014, in Georgia.