Geoff Duncan has been Georgia’s lieutenant governor for two months. He thinks two terms in the job is enough for anybody, and he aims to make that part of the state’s constitution. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

Capitol Recap: Georgia lt. gov thinks two terms should be enough

The state’s No. 2 job should only come with two terms.

That’s the belief of the guy who has been holding down the position for the past two months, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan.

Duncan, during an appearance on GPB's "Lawmakers," advocated for a proposed constitutional amendment that will soon be introduced seeking a term limit for lieutenant governor — once he’s done with it, of course.

Lieutenant governor is still a relatively new office in the evolution of Georgia politics. It was created in the 1940s, and its most significant duty is serving as president of the state Senate.

Despite the lieutenant governor’s key role in the operation of the upper chamber of the Legislature, Duncan says “it’s a role I believe sits in the executive branch.” That’s why he thinks it should fall under the same term limits and timing as that of the governor.

But if you care about transparency in government, that distinction between legislative and executive authority is interesting for another reason. The state’s Open Records Act specifically exempts the Legislature from having to respond to public requests for documents.

State Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, will be introducing the term-limit proposal. The plan is for it to appear on the November 2020 ballot. That will require the state House and state Senate to each approve it by a two-thirds majority by the end of next year’s legislative session. Given the current math in the General Assembly, that means Duncan & Co. will require the help of Democrats.

If the plan succeeds, that means there would be no more Zell Millers — he was lieutenant governor for four terms before moving into the governor’s office — or even a Casey Cagle, who held the job for three terms before his unsuccessful bid last year for the governor.

“The office of lieutenant governor is no place for academic tenure,” Duncan said in a press release. “Individuals elected to this office should focus solely on serving Georgians, and no lieutenant governor should consider this post a permanent home.”

Liftoff interrupted: The plan for a state takeover of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport may have to return to the gate.

State House Speaker David Ralston could be blocking the runway.

Speaking to Aaron Diamant of Channel 2 Action News, Ralston called the plan detailed in Senate Bill 131 “an expansion of government, quite frankly.”

An interpreter in the lingo of the Gold Dome could tell you that means the bill, which easily passed the state Senate on Crossover Day, could be looking at engine failure.

Supporters of a takeover have pointed to the current federal probe into corruption at Atlanta’s City Hall? Ralston didn’t appear to find that persuasive.

“I’m not sure we need to change the whole system because of that,” he said.

No Deal?State Rep. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, cast one of only two votes opposing House Resolution 1, which calls for naming the state’s new judicial building after former Gov. Nathan Deal.

The vote came with risks for the freshman legislator because it put him at odds with Ralston, the resolution’s sponsor.

The resolution, meant to honor Deal for his work in overhauling the state’s criminal justice system, has now passed both chambers.

But Moore isn't giving up.

He has now taken his case to Deal’s successor, Gov. Brian Kemp, using a thing they call a letter. He’s urged Kemp to veto HR 1.

“Respectfully, such a designation would be highly inappropriate for a building where the Georgia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals will be housed,” Moore wrote. “Former Governor Deal continues to be extremely active in Georgia politics. He owns and operates a lobbying firm which already represents clients, such as Pruitt Health, that have significant cases before these State appellate courts on matters ranging from wrongful death to fraud against state agencies.

“Should you approve HR1, these clients and their critical court cases will be heard in the very building named after the lobbying firm they have hired. This is a serious conflict of interest that eternally jeopardizes the crown jewel of justice in Georgia. Furthermore, potential challenges to executive actions taken by former Governor Deal’s administration, and appeals of such challenges, would be made to a court housed in a building named in his honor.”

Trouble within: Democratic state Rep. Mack Jackson could be more popular with Republicans right now than with members of his own party.

The pastor from Sandersville was the only Democrat to vote for the Republican-backed “heartbeat bill,” House Bill 481, that would outlaw most abortions in the state.

Some Democrats responded to Jackson’s vote on the bill — which would prevent an abortion once a doctor has detected a heartbeat, or about six weeks into a pregnancy — by launching a search for somebody to run against him in next year’s primary.

In a tweet, Democratic state Rep. Dar'shun Kendrick sent a message to the state party’s recruitment chairman.

“Ahem,” Kenrick wrote. “Are we allowed to send over candidates to run against democratic incumbents that wont let me choose what to do with my body? Asking for a friend.”

Gaining ground: Georgia Democrats just added to their presence on the Board of Transportation.

State lawmakers from the 6th Congressional District elected Kevin Abel to serve on the board.

He was last seen running against Lucy McBath in the Democratic runoff to represent the 6th District in Congress. McBath went on to defeat the Republican incumbent, Karen Handel.

Abel replaces Mark Burkhalter, a former state Republican lawmaker who briefly served as House speaker.

With the election, Democrats now hold six of the 14 seats on the board, which oversees a $3.7 billion budget.

A shift toward future: The calendar says 2019, but U.S. Sen. David Perdue is making 2020 moves.

The senator’s chief of staff, Derrick Dickey, is exiting the Russell Senate Office Building for new digs with Perdue’s re-election campaign.

The new chief will be Dickey’s longtime deputy, Megan Whittemore. Before joining the Perdue campaign in 2014, she worked for Eric Cantor, the former U.S. House majority leader from Virginia.

In addition to working on Perdue’s re-election, Dickey will continue to serve as a senior adviser to the senator.

His Perdue roots run deep. He was a press aide to Sonny Perdue before going to work for the former governor’s cousin to handle his communications strategy.

Whittemore’s ascendance means this is the second time that women have served as the chiefs of staff for both of Georgia’s two U.S. senators.

Joan Kirchner Carr, the top aide to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, said in a tweet that Georgia is now the sole state in the nation that has two women serving as chief of staff.

Schultz’s book party: Former Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz, during a quick stop in Atlanta to sell his book, served up some tough words about the two-party system and President Donald Trump.

The man who turned medium-size into “grande” and equated large with “venti” is exploring a third-party run for the Oval Office.

People across the country, he said, are telling him the government is not working well.

“What are we going to do?” Schultz said. “Are we going to sit here and embrace the status quo of more decline? Is there any evidence if a Democrat wins that Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party are going to embrace a Democrat? We need to recognize that the two-party system is broken.”

Schultz, who spoke at the chapel at the Carter Center, said he was surprised by the criticism he has faced from Democrats over his potential run for the presidency.

“I didn’t think this would be a character assassination. … I think the concerns the American people have are greater than the threat to the two-party system,” he said.

Schultz also tried to ease Democrats’ concerns that he could play a Ralph Nader-like spoiler role in the 2020 election, finishing third but pulling in enough votes to secure a victory for Trump.

“I’m not in business to re-elect Donald Trump,” Schultz said. “I love this country, and if we get to the point where the math doesn’t work for me, I won’t proceed.

“But with 18 months to go, and the American people feeling like the government has let them down, I feel like something has to be challenged.”

Candidates, endorsements, etc.:

— Surprising few, former Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves has entered the 7th Congressional District race. Eaves just moved into Gwinnett County and the 7th District, where U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall has announced he will not seek re-election in 2020. Eaves, who lost a bid to become mayor of Atlanta, becomes the fourth Democrat to enter the race.

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