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December 10th, 2009
John Fredericks / Staff

Martin Calls For Next House Speaker To Come From Floor, Not Caucus


Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) has had enough with the GOP State House leadership Caucus making decisions for their members. 

Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) has had enough with the GOP State House leadership Caucus making decisions for their members. 

He wants to change the perceived culture of power and arrogance that has engulfed the Republican House leadership team at the behest of now discredited Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram), who is resigning from his post effective January 1 amidst charges of abuse of power, ethical transgressions and an alleged relationship with a lobbyist that pushed a bill he supported. 

Speaker Pro-Tem Mark Burkhalter (R-Johns Creek) takes over the Speaker's chair on New Year's Day--but Burkhalter said on Monday he will not seek the position beyond his interim stint and may resign from the General Assembly to pursue other career interests. That leaves a power vacuum for House Republicans: Both the Speaker and Speaker Pro-Tem positions are up for grabs.

Burkhalter has called a Caucus meeting for members on Friday at Georgia Tech to determine how to proceed. 

But Martin already has the solution: elect the next Ga. House Speaker right from the floor in a series of public and open votes and make the Speaker selection process transparent and fluid, thus circumventing the House GOP power brokers. 

"Given this unique situation I am asking all candidates for Speaker and Speaker Pro- Tem to bypass caucus politics and offer themselves before the entire membership of the Georgia House of Representatives,” said Martin, "this is a time for all Georgians to see the entire process and for all members to be included."

Martin also encouraged both parties and all candidates to embrace an open process and defeat any attempts to manipulate caucus rules or House Rules to prevent an entirely open process. 

"These are uncharted times and as a result it is more important than ever to engage all Members of the Georgia House in the process and earn the trust of all Georgians," Martin reiterated. 

Under the current system as few as 53 members of the majority party could select the next Speaker and Speaker Pro Tem. Holding the election on the House Floor would require the eventual Speaker to receive a majority of the votes of the entire Georgia House, and "engage both parties" he added. 

Martin, a potential dark horse candidate for Speaker himself, emphasized that this was not a political ploy to promote his own candidacy for Speaker, nor was it an attempt at grandstanding or headline mongering.

"This is the best way to elect new House leadership in view of recent events," Martin maintained. "It's good for the House, good for Republicans, good for Democrats, and good for Georgia," Martin said. 

Martin, a former Alpharetta mayor, says he has not talked to his colleagues about either his plan or his potential candidacy for the top spot. "This is not about me," Martin promised. "It's about what's best for the state."

WILLARD: CHUCK'S PLAN A NON STARTER

House Judiciary Chairman Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), who is running for State Senate in 2010 (D-56), expressed skepticism. "I am vehemently opposed to this concept for choosing our next Speaker," Willard maintained. "It would set a dangerous and unnecessary precedent."

Willard explained that Martin's plan, although perhaps noble on the surface, actually circumvents the democratic political process. "The Republican Party has earned an electoral majority from Georgia voters," Willard said. "Martin's initiative would open the door for a liberal who is a Republican in name only to win the Speaker ship with the support of Democrats. This would circumvent the electoral wishes of Georgia voters over the last five years," Willard asserted. 

Martin, however, refuted that hypothesis. "In my opinion, Wendell's assumption that 16 or more Republicans would vote for a 'liberal' to become Speaker is more than just unlikely, it is quite funny," the Alpharetta legislator responded. "Frankly, that talk is reflective of the scare tactics one usually sees from Washington these days.  We have at least four Republicans offering for the Speaker's job and all four are more than capable of making the case before the House."

Martin defended his proposal by advocating that a clear Republican Majority guarantees a conservative Speaker. "A direct floor vote will provide that individual the absolute validation needed in these times," Martin concluded. 

SPEAKER CANDIDATES

There are two North Fulton candidates for House Speaker to replace conservative icon Burkhalter on January 11: Majority Whip Jan Jones (R-Milton) and Martin. Both are dark horses at this point. The leading candidates, or favorites, are Rep. Larry O'Neal (R-Bonaire), Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), who challenged Richardson last year and was kicked out of the GOP leadership family as punitive reprisal. 

"Both Larry and David are outstanding legislators and would make exemplary leaders," Willard said. 

 

 

 

 

 

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