Comes now the first prefiled Senate resolution for the 2016 session, proposed by Sen. Josh McKoon. SR 674 is seven lines long in its original form:
1 Amending the Rules of the Senate; and for other purposes.
2 BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE that the Rules of the Senate are amended by adding
3 a new subsection to Rule 5-1.3, relating to voting, to read as follows:
4 “(f) Unless the members of the Senate by unanimous consent otherwise agree, each floor
5 amendment offered for adoption with regard to a bill or resolution being considered by the
6 Senate shall be voted upon by a roll-call vote and the results of which shall be entered into
7 the Journal.”
The origin and purpose of this resolution goes back to the closing hours of the 2015 session. The Senate was proceeding through a marathon calendar of bills, including a House cleanup bill that made Georgia drivers licenses conform to federal requirements. That was an opportunity for Sen. McKoon to attempt to amend the bill by adding the provisions of SB 6 to it.
SB 6 would eliminate a loophole that allows those illegal immigrants who are covered under President Obama’s DACA program (and proposed DAPA program) to receive Georgia drivers licenses. Under DACA, these immigrants get taxpayer ID numbers and other documentation that would currently qualify them to obtain licenses. The bill was referred to the Public Safety committee, where it still sits, awaiting action.
According to current Senate rules, the motion to amend is subject to a hand vote, rather than a recorded one. And according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, the amendment failed, 27-16. The issue of illegal immigration, as anyone following the GOP presidential race knows, is an important one to the GOP base. Senators know that their proceedings are broadcast live and archived on video. Theoretically, that means that one could determine who voted for or against an amendment by looking at the video of the hand vote. But, Senators also know that there are places within the chamber that are out of or almost out of camera view, but visible from the Chair. And so, some retreated to the back of the room so the way they voted on McKoon’s amendment couldn’t be seen, or made other movements to make it difficult to track how they voted.
Upset that what amounted to being an unrecorded no vote on SB 6, anti-illegal immigration activists made it a point to have the April GOP district conventions and the May state convention vote on resolutions of support for SB 6, and requiring recorded votes for Senate amendments. In July, Sen. McKoon announced plans to strengthen SB6, as well as to introduce a Senate rules change to require the recorded votes.
And that brings us to SR 674. Unlike the House, where most proposed amendments are vetted by the Rules Committee, amendments to bills in the Senate can be introduced on the fly, and it’s not unusual to have multiple amendments to a bill under consideration. As one senator points out, requiring machine votes would slow down Senate proceedings even more than they are now. On the other hand, the issues of accountability and anger that elected officials don’t keep their promises have been cited as factors driving the rise of outsider candidates in the 2016 elections. Qualifying for each of the State Senate seats starts March 6th. Time will tell if this amendment will be a big issue in the eyes of Republican voters.