Source: Library of Congress

The Jolt: State lawmakers could be asked to end Prohibition, ban the poll tax

It appears that Georgia has some unfinished business when it comes to booze and voting.

Over at the Marietta Daily Journal, Don McKee has a column on the 2019 ambitions of certain state lawmakers. Among them is Scot Turner, R-Holly Springs, who notes that our Legislature never ratified the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that ended Prohibition in 1933.

Nor have state lawmakers ever approved the 24th Amendment to the federal document, which banned the pernicious poll tax in 1964.

Both amendments were added to the Constitution upon the approval of three-fourths of the states then in existence. In each case, Georgia chose not to participate. Our AJC colleague James Salzer briefly noted Turner’s intentions last month. McKee adds this note from the lawmaker to the grist:

“As a history nerd, I was surprised to learn that Georgia never ratified these Constitutional Amendments,” Rep. Turner explained in an email. “When it was brought to my attention that we had not ratified them, I was honestly a little embarrassed for my state. Since they have long been the law of the land, ratification now is nothing more than a housekeeping measure, but an important one nonetheless to our reputation as a forward-looking state.”

Ratifying the end of Prohibition after 86 years wouldn’t create huge waves. When it comes to alcohol, Georgia’s political climate has changed drastically over the last two decades.

A debate over the poll tax, used to price African-Americans out of the voting booth, could be another matter. The 24th Amendment was ratified at the height of the civil rights movement, but Georgia had already abandoned the practice two decades earlier, under the relatively progressive tenure of Gov. Ellis Arnall. (His political career was deep-sixed when he refused to authorize a legal defense of the state’s white-only primary.)

However, given the role that debates over ballot access played in the 2018 campaign for governor, Turner could run into some GOP trepidation that Democrats could use his efforts to revive last year’s grievances.

***

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, is facing backlash from Jewish groups for a searing New Year’s Day speech comparing President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. 

The National Council of Young Israel, an Orthodox Jewish organization, called for Johnson’s censure and said his words minimize Hitler’s record of genocide and mass murder. 

“Comparing the president of the United States to a tyrannical dictator who has the blood of six million Jews on his hands is outrageous and beyond the pale,” said Farley Weiss, the president of the organization, which represents about 135 synagogues.

Dov Wilker, regional director for the American Jewish Committee’s Atlanta office, said Johnson “should apologize and find other ways to criticize the administration going forward.""In a fierce political climate, Congressman Johnson has every right to hold strong views on both the policies and even the character of the president,” he said. “However, comparisons to Adolf Hitler are offensive, minimize the tragedy of the Shoah and in the end convince nobody who wasn’t already persuaded.”

Johnson has defended the comparison, saying he wanted to make the point that “if we are not vigilant we can allow tyranny to set in.”

***

Not too long ago, we reported that state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, was set to continue to be the face of the movement behind the “religious liberty” measure as the new director of the state chapter of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. 

We’re now hearing that could be on hold. We’ve picked up word that McKoon, who lost a bid for secretary of state, will serve as the top aide for incoming Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck -- at least on an interim basis.

McKoon declined to comment on the swirl of talk about his new position. 

*** 

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice of Monroe was one of just six House Republicans yesterday to vote against Kevin McCarthy, a fellow Republican from California, for speaker. Five of those rebels, Hice included, voted for former Freedom Caucus chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio (even though Jordan himself opted to support McCarthy, who was formerly the House majority leader).

A Hice spokeswoman said the three-term congressman voted for Jordan to stay consistent with his vote in a private Republican meeting after the election. It’s worth noting, though, that Hice has expressed interest in leading the Freedom Caucus this year. Paying respect to the conservative group’s first leader certainly doesn’t hurt.

***

Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden has set Feb. 12 as the date for a special election to fill the vacated House District 176 seat of state Rep. Jason Shaw, R-Lakeland. Shaw was recently appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to fill the unexpired term of Doug Everett, a member of the state Public Services Commission.

A runoff for the House seat would be held March 12.

Three days of qualifying are already underway – today, Monday and Tuesday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X