An intriguing piece of legislation dropped into the hopper in Atlanta this week has, so far, exactly one signature on it — that of its sponsor, Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus). It deserves at least a close look. The essence of the bill, S.B. 175, is that state legislators who run for federal office must either vacate their legislative seats within 30 days after officially declaring their candidacy, or officially end that bid for higher office by notice to the Federal Election Commission before that 30-day period ends.
The idea is that an elected official should be reasonably constrained in using the powers of his or her current office as a means of campaigning for another one. Not, of course, that this isn’t exactly what every politician seeking to move up the ladder has done since the dawn of politics: Mayors want to be governors, state legislators want to be in Congress, members of Congress want to be president. It’s the nature of the game. But that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be some reasonable incentives to keep public servants serving instead of just campaigning.
“If you want to run for federal office and want to be focused on federal issues,” McKoon told the Atlanta newspaper, “then you should be able to do that. But I think it does a disservice to the people you’re representing.”
The problem, as McKoon apparently sees it, is that laws prohibiting campaign fund-raising during a legislative session aren’t binding on state lawmakers if the campaign is for a federal elective office. The conflict is self-evident: politicking — and worse, legislating — in Atlanta on issues that are really about Washington.
An AJC columnist called the McKoon bill a way for lawmakers to “test-drive a campaign for Congress.” The bill itself is worth at least a test drive under the Gold Dome.
On the other hand … From the intriguing to the insulting: A group of Republicans in the House have authored a resolution to appeal the 100-year-old 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That’s the one that says we elect our own U.S. senators instead of having them appointed by state legislatures. Principal sponsor Kevin Cooke, D-Carollton told the (Carrollton) Times-Georgian it’s about “a restoration of the Constitution, about how government is supposed to work.”
Really? Past versions and interpretations of the Constitution have sanctioned slavery, Prohibition, disenfranchisement of women, forced Indian removal and Jim Crow. Anybody who favors “restoration” of any of the above, please speak up.
But if a group of Georgia pols really think they can start a grassroots movement to alter the U.S. Constitution and take a major election out of voters’ hands, then by all means have at it.