The legislative session that begins Jan. 13 will be quicker than any in recent years, and that will create a wave of changes that will ripple through Georgia. When the U.S. Department of Justice sued the state for not allowing ample time for voters overseas with the military to get their ballots counted, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones’ decision last year created the tidal wave. He agreed with the DOJ that the primary runoff period wasn’t sufficiently long enough to get ballots from soldiers, sailors and airmen in time to be counted before the runoff voting begins. Jones decreed that the primary must be held no later than June 3 rather than the July 15 date in state law. So, state leaders wanting to avoid low turnouts during the Memorial Day period picked May 24 as the date they’ll ask the legislature to set into law.
Wanting to get out of the capital to campaign is a major reason legislators are promising a quick session, but a bigger reason is a legal prohibition against fundraising before the General Assembly adjourns. It’s especially troubling for incumbents because their challengers are under no such prohibition.
State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, tried to amend an ethics bill last year that would have extended the prohibition to challengers, but Democrats sniffed it out and got it stopped. Don’t be surprised if there’s another attempt.
Erasing the prohibition completely is probably too risky politically, especially in a year when a lobbyist-gift ban is taking effect and an issue in Gov. Nathan Deal’s re-election will be allegations related to his use of campaign funds in his last campaign.