This was supposed to be a good year for Republicans in my home state. It may still be, in some respects. But Republicans have learned that controlling the Governors office and both branches of the state legislature (by healthy margins) for the first time since Reconstruction doesnt guarantee passage of their agenda.
The issue with which Im concerned is the revision of Georgias Blaine Amendment, about which Ive posted here (with links to other relevant posts). Todays Atlanta paper has this article, which says that the Georgia Council for Moral and Civic Concerns has thrown its entire support to this alternative, which is (thankfully) a long shot to pass, given the legislative calendar.
The failed measure, which simply would have aligned the Georgia constitutions religion provisions with the First Amendment, fell a few votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority in the state senate. So far as I can tell, no one ever made the case that opponents were voting against the First Amendment (albeit as interpreted by an essentially incoherent Supreme Court).
The substitute measure has three principal defects. First, it prohibits mission-sensitive hiring (aka religious discrimination in hiring), which I defended here. Second, it prohibits the use of vouchers at any faith-drenched program, such as Teen Challenge. And third, it explicitly rules out vouchers for elementary and secondary education, but not for the pre-k and college scholarships funded by Georgias lottery. Nevertheless, it does nothing to remedy the obvious constitutional problems that these programs face, which I outlined here.
As I noted before, it was the teachers unions fear of educational vouchers that derailed the measure, even though all the Governors proposal would have done is eliminate a constitutional barrier, which is not the same thing as enacting a law providing for them. The fact that the Governors proposal commanded a majority (but not a supermajority) suggests that on a straight up or down vote, a voucher proposal might have passed. But the unions didnt have to assemble a majority to defeat a legislative proposal; they just had to hold together a minority to defeat a constitutional amendment. In other words, theyre hiding behind Georgias constitutional status quo because they cant win the public policy argument in the legislature.
For the reasons outlined above, I dont think Governor Perdue and his allies should support the alternative measure. The status quo, with all of its problems, is better than establishing still more barriers to Georgias version of the faith-based initiative.
On the national level, Republicans should take heed to avoid situations which put determined minorities in the drivers seat. Doh! They clearly shouldnt stand for anything like this. Its time to use that majority in the Senate to change the rules on judicial nominations and call the Democrats bluff on shutting down the government. Or else we (they) can permit the Democrats to decide who the judicial nominees should be.